STORY BY CAYDEN SANDERS
PHOTOS BY GILLIAN LYNCH
After a sluggish start in their final tune-up before Thanksgiving, the FHSU men’s basketball team eventually found an easy 65-32 victory against Central Christian on Tuesday.
“We had a good night, I thought, they are a good three-point shooting team, and we held them to 18.2 percent from the floor,” FHSU Head Coach Mark Johnson said, “We need to be a little better on the offensive side of the floor, so we don’t rely on our defense so much.”
In addition to holding Central Christian to a low three-point percentage, FHSU also limited the visitors to just 23.2 percent shooting from the field, forced 17 turnovers and outrebounded Central 48-24.
After a slow start, the Tigers flexed their defensive prowess, keeping Central at just five points for nearly ten minutes in the first half. FHSU went into halftime with a 35-10 lead. Kaleb Hammeke helped pace FHSU’s offense with a team-high 10 points to go along with five assists, three steals and three rebounds.
“It’s my job to come into the game and give my team a chance,” Hammeke said. “If that’s leading in scoring or getting rebounds, that’s what it will take. We just got to keep going, we are getting better, but we need to work on our 41 [four guards, one forward] this next game.”
FHSU relied on scores from veteran players Hammeke, Bjarni Jonsson, and Gabe Pieschl to start the second half allowing FHSU to cruise the rest of the way to victory.
“For us, those guys need to be the game’s leaders; if they don’t, we will be in for a fight,” Johnson said.
The easy win allowed FHSU to get more minutes from its bench players, namely sophomore guard Traejon Davis, who scored nine points and pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds in 20 minutes of action.
“I am just getting better every day. Just come in, whether it’s practice games or just want to get one percent better every day,” Davis said. “It feels great to be out there hustling, and you hear fans cheer and cheer your name – it feels really good. I look to give my team a spark off the bench, and tonight I had a good night that helped us to the win.”
Johnson also spoke on Davis’ performance on the night, which included a highlight-worthy backdoor dunk in the second half.
“Traejon [Davis] is a tough basketball player; he gives his all in games and practice,” Johnson said. “It’s good to see him be out on the court and contribute for us tonight.”
In the waning minutes of the game, Johnson was able to empty his bench which included playing freshman guard Lucas Hammeke, the younger brother of Kaleb Hammeke. For Lucas, taking advantage of his opportunities to play and focusing on the little things is what he is trying to do when he sees the floor.
“It’s just doing my role when I get in. We were up big, obviously, so maintaining the lead and not turning the ball over is my job,” Lucas Hammeke said. “If I score a few here and there, that’s good, but just take care of the ball mostly and get stops on defense.”
Lucas Hammake earned two points and one rebound in seven minutes on Tuesday, but Kaleb Hammeke spoke on his brother’s performance.
“Yeah, it’s cool to watch him out there. I know he has a lot of fun. He works hard, so wherever you get a chance to get out there, so when we can get up big and get those guys in.” Kaleb Hammeke said. “It was a little funny brother moment when he got blocked. I enjoyed him playing and having fun out there.”
Junior forward Gilbert Peters also took advantage of his minutes off the bench, scoring eight points in nine minutes -including a baseline dunk with thirty-five seconds left as the fans rose to their feet, celebrating Peter’s dunk and the Tiger’s win at home.
“It’s great to be back and playing at Gross Memorial; I have been playing with the team for a couple of years, and hearing my name in the stands is really cool,” Peters said, “I can’t wait for game days because the team and the fans make this place feel like one big family, making it a fun place to play.”
Fort Hays State moved to 4-1 on the season and has one final game in the non-conference season with Manhattan Christian College on Saturday. Johnson and the Tigers look to keep improving on plays on offense in the game against MCC and find who is “worthy” of being a part of the Tigers rotation this season before they compete against the MIAA regular season schedule.
“Obviously, we want to win, but it’s our last non-conference game. You want to win and get better,” Johnson said. “We will use this last opportunity to try to improve our team as we go into the next week and have our conference season.”
The Tigers tip-off at 7:00 p.m. Saturday after the 5:00 p.m. women’s game against Tabor concludes.