Fort Hays wins physical battle with Rogers State

BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
PHOTOS BY CORYN HAHN

According to Head Coach Mark Johnson, Saturday’s game between Fort Hays and Rogers State was typically how the matchup goes.

In the end, it was the Tigers who came out on top, 65-55. Their record moves to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the MIAA.

“Every time we’ve played Rogers, these are the kind of games they are,” Johnson said. “We pride ourselves on toughness and great defense, and their program is the same way. When you get two programs emphasizing that, the first half can be kind of ugly, it was hard to score.”

After a scoreless first three minutes, it was RSU who struck first. Neither team could build much of a lead, but the Tigers managed to go up by two at halftime with a last-second shot by Bjarni Jonsson on a long pass from Kaleb Hammeke. 

The next 20 minutes continued to be a battle, but the closest the Hillcats ever got to FHSU was two points. Forced fouls late in the game sent the Tigers to the free-throw line, where they scored their last 13 points.

“[RSU’s] coach does a great job of getting them ready each time and they play so physical, so we knew it was going to be like that,” Hammeke said. “Coach said we just had to keep doing what we were doing, out-will them and out-fine them to the end and eventually it would fall our way.”

Hammeke led FHSU and all scorers with 23 points, 14 coming from free throws. Elijah Nnanabu finished behind him with 15 points, adding five rebounds. Jonsson was the third Tiger to score in double digits with 10. Gabe Pieschl pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.

As a team, the Tigers shot 39.6 percent, scoring 19 of their points off of RSU’s 18 turnovers.

“[This game] will help a ton moving forward,” Hammeke said. “We had Elijah step up, he was huge tonight making a bunch of shots. Geoff [Hamperian] stepped up. There’s even more confidence built up for the rest of the season. It’ll be a good game for us.”

Johnson also commented on his players dealing with and playing through the physicality of the game. 

“I’m just proud of our guys,” he said. “Iyen [Enaruna] had to sit out with an injury, [Traejon Davis] got hurt early, and Gabe got hit in the mouth pretty good and had to have stitches. We don’t play for a full week and it’s probably coming at a good time for us.”

Next Saturday, FHSU will travel to St. Joseph, MO to take on Missouri Western. Tip-off is set for 3:30 p.m. 

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