The Emporia State men’s basketball team fought hard but couldn’t overcome 11 made three-pointers against #5 Ft. Hays State last night as the team fell by four points, 69-65.
Senior guard Lamar Wilbern was the first to strike gold in the first half for the Hornets off of a 12-foot jump shot that gave the Hornets a one point advantage early, 2-1. After a FHSU free throw tied the score, Wilbern struck again, this time off of two successful free throws, increasing the Hornets lead to two, 4-2, with just over 17 minutes remaining.
An empty Tigers possession led to a three-pointer by senior guard Tim Niles. Another made free throw by FHSU led to a nice move on the low block by junior forward Adam Holthaus which resulted in a made basket.
A media timeout gave a break in the action with the Hornets leading the Tigers 10-6 with 14:20 left to play in the half.
The Tigers went on a 9-0 run following the timeout, capitalizing on poor execution by the Hornets. Another timeout on the floor at the 9:55 mark saw Ft. Hays leading the Hornets, 15-10.
Two made free throws came the Hornets way courtesy of senior forward Jeremiah Box after the timeout, cutting the Tigers’ lead to three, 15-12. FHSU went on a 7-2 run before Holthaus cut into it with two made free throws – the Hornets trailed the Tigers with just over six minutes to play, 16-22.
An easy Ft. Hays layup led to another two successful free throws from Holthaus. A broken play after a timeout on the floor led to a jumper from the low block by Holthaus, which cut the Tigers’ lead to seven. Wilbern chipped in a three-pointer to bring the Ft. Hays lead down to three, 27-24, with over two minutes to play in the half.
FHSU Coach Mark Johnson called timeout with 29 seconds remaining to set up the final play of the half, as his Tigers still led the Hornets by four, 32-28. The play was unsuccessful as the ball was turned over and Box’s shot from beyond the half court line was no good.
The Hornets came back to within one point to start the second half, thanks to a made free throw from Box and a basket on the low block by senior forward Doug Moore. Wilbern’s drive to the basket and make gave the Hornets the lead, 33-32 with over 16 minutes to play in the game.
Emporia State’s lead extended to four due to a three-pointer from Wilbern – FHSU was forced to call timeout with 16:34 remaining.
The first media timeout of the half saw the Hornets still hanging onto a narrow lead, 38-36, with 13:52 left in the contest.
Two straight turnovers by freshman guard Taylor Euler led the Tigers to regain the lead, 39-38, which was followed by a timeout by ESU Coach David Moe. After a missed shot by Niles, Ft. Hays turned the ball over underneath the Emporia State basket to Box, who quickly scored and gave the Hornets the one point lead with 11:53 to play in the half.
A pair of FHSU free throws later, Box popped a three-pointer to give the Hornets a two point lead. A media timeout stopped the action with the Hornets trailing the Tigers, 45-49, with 9:07 remaining in the contest.
The Hornets battled back to take a one point lead, thanks largely in part to a traditional three point play from Holthaus. Following a 30-second timeout by ESU, an unsuccessful low block shot by Holthaus led to a three-pointer by FHSU’s Dominique Jones. Jones hit another trey on the ensuing Ft. Hays possession, which brought their lead to eight at the 4:27 mark.
Following a media timeout, Holthaus hit a pair of free throws to cut Ft. Hays lead to six, which was followed by another Jones three-pointer. Once again it would be Holthaus who answered on the low block, cutting the Tigers’ lead to seven, 63-56.
On the next Ft. Hays possession, Wilbern stole the ball and passed to senior guard Dustin Andrews, who was fouled on the way to the hole and made one of two free throws. After a missed one-and-one opportunity by Jones, Andrews was fouled and made both free throws, cutting the Tigers’ lead to four.
Following a 30-second timeout from FHSU, Ft. Hays guard Corbin Kuntzsch made an easy basket on the low block, which was followed by a layup by Andrews. A jump ball was awarded to ESU, and Andrews once again found himself at the free throw line, making one out of the two and taking the score to 66-62 in favor of FHSU. Jones would hit both free throws on a foul on the inbounds, which led to a three-pointer from Box.
The Hornets could not overcome the deficit and lost the contest, 65-69.
Second half adjustments were integral to the Hornets comeback effort. Wilbern cited aggressiveness as a point of emphasis.
“We just wanted to continue to be aggressive – that was our game plan,” Wilbern said. “A lot of times we were too soft.”
Holthaus led the Hornets in scoring with 20, followed by Box and Wilbern with 12 points apiece.
After being out for several games due to illness, Box said he knew what he had to do to successfully contribute to the team.
“I only got to practice two times in the last month…I just knew I had to come out and play hard,” Box said.
Moe said that, after the embarrassing loss to Washburn, pride was a key point in the Hornets efforts this game.
“One thing athletes have [is] pride, and pride carried us through this game…we could have been a little more determined,” Moe said. “We didn’t have many turnovers and we forced a lot of turnovers, that’s what kept us in the game. We’ve got room to improve, but what we’ve got to do is play with pride like this all the time.”