BY CAYDEN SANDERS
PHOTOS BY MADISON SHAPLAND
The men’s basketball team had their final non-conference tuneup against the Manhattan Christian College Thunder on Saturday. FHSU cruised to an easy 95-40 victory, which included a 17-0 run to start the game.
“I thought we played well. We shot the ball really well, something our team needed. We gained some confidence,” FHSU Head Coach Mark Johnson said. “I thought, for the most part, everybody got out there played fairly well and we stayed engaged throughout the game. Sometimes with the score, it’s easy to kind of lose your focus and let the game get sloppy and I thought our guys did a great job of staying focused.”
The Tigers were paced early by Kaleb Kammeke, who scored 10 of FHSU’s first 17 points.
“We have needed to come out fast and we needed to have this game shown that we have cleaned up our game, and I think it did.” Hammeke said.
Hammeke finished with 22 points and seven assists in the contest.
The Tigers continued to pour it on through the first half, going up 27-4 with 9:45 left and 35-7 with 7:35 remaining. FHSU punctuated their first-half dominance with a Gilbert Peters dunk to go into the break leading 48-20.
“It’s good having good games and having season highs in games, but its not only about me but it is about the team and we did our jobs as a team,” Hammeke said.
The second half saw FHSU continue to play well, allowing reserve players the opportunity to get on the court. One such player who took advantage of his minutes was sophomore forward Haggan Hilgendorf, who scored 15 points in 15 minutes of action which included a 4-5 effort from beyond the three-point line.
“I have spent a lot of time shooting, and the team wanted me to shoot and that is what I did,” Hilgendorf said. “I am lucky to find some minutes on the floor. I have always been a pick and pop big and so with the team needing me to do so, it has helped my game.”
For the Tigers they had multiple players having season and career highs. Hilgendorf netted a career high in points and blocks (2) while Peters achieved a season-high 10 points and recorded his first steal of the game.
“Having guys like (Gilbert) Peters, and (Haggan) Hilgandorf is great especially when they come off the bench and can be just as apart of this team, as much as me and the starters are,” Johnson said.
For one MCC player, Saturday’s contest was a homecoming of sorts. Wesley Oakley, a freshman guard for the Thunder, is a 2022 Hays High graduate. Even though he was ruled out of the game with a petellar tendon rupture, Oakley reflects on growing up an FHSU fan and being on the opposite side of the Tigers for the first time.
“Being here in Gross Memorial is different now means that I have made it to the college level, but growing up I would always come to their games,” Oakley said. “Even through I did not play in the game today, it was a great opportunity to enjoy Gross Memorial in a different way than I am used to.”
It was not just Wesley that had to go against cheering for the Tigers, as the Oakley family came out for support
“Yeah, all of my family came to watch and sat on the Manhattan Christian side,” Oakley said. “It was nice to get the support from the family even though we have been Fort Hays fans.”
Oakley hopes to see the court soon, and hopes to compete against the Tigers next season if the opportunity arises.
Fort Hays State will be back at home against MIAA opponents this week in Northeastern State and Rogers State to open MIAA play. Tip-off against the RiverHawks is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.