Despite 31 points from Fort Hays State Guard Dominique Jones, the Emporia State Hornets were able to control much of Saturday evening’s game and eventually pull away for an 81-77 victory on senior night.
“Everybody wanted to win,” said Senior Michael Tyler. “We didn’t want to end our season bad. Everybody was talking about the MIAA tournament. We had to come back and play hard. Everybody knew that, so we did that tonight.”
Much like the last time the two teams met, the Hornets were able to stick with the Tigers. The first half saw ESU jump out to an impressive 16-6 led behind seniors Matt Boswell (nine points, four rebounds) and Tyler (18 points, eight rebounds).
The Hornets would take an eight point lead into the half after Jones made a shot for FHSU as time expired. Tyler scored 13 of his 18 in the first 20 minutes of play, and the Hornets’ defense held strong holding the Tigers to just 35.5 percent shooting to their own 48.4 percent.
ESU opened up a 13 point second half lead in the first three minutes of the half. However, Fort Hays would take their first lead with 6:28 left after scoring seven unanswered points.
The teams would continue to battle back and forth. After a three pointer by Jones to tie the game with 3:48 left, the Hornets would hold Fort Hays to just two points in the next two minutes. Sophomore guard Taylor Euler (18 points, five rebounds) hit a big three with 1:01 remaining and added six free throws in the final minute to put Fort Hays away for good.
“Last week really helped me with my confidence,” Euler said. “You look back on that experience, and say ‘I hit them then, I can hit them now.’ And this time you have the home crowd, the good vibes good luck. I was just able to step up and knock them down.”
ESU honored their seniors before the game. They were both happy with the last two wins and looking forward to the weekend’s upcoming action.
“It’s going to be pretty nice if we can go down to Kansas City, win a couple of games and be playing for a championship,” said Senior Adam Holthaus. “Definitely those last two games… (are) definitely a big confidence boost.”
The Hornets (15-13, 12-10) are the sixth seed in the MIAA tournament. They will face Washburn in a rematch from last week’s game at 8:15 p.m. Thursday at Municipal Coliseum in Kansas City, Mo.