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FHSU enters final week

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

The Fort Hays State University men's basketball team lost 76-70 on the road to Washburn University on Saturday night in a contest that had major implications for a conference championship and NCAA Division II tournament positioning.

This week marks the final two games of the regular season.

The Tigers stand at 17-7 overall, 11-5 MIAA and still have an opportunity to win the league outright. Fort Hays ends the regular season with home games Wednesday night at Missouri Western State University and Friday against Lincoln (Mo.) University

University of Central Missouri leads the league at 12-4, while Washburn is 11-5 and University of Central Oklahoma is at 10-5.

However, Washburn has to travel to rival Emporia State University on Thursday and plays host to Central Missouri on Saturday. If FHSU and UCM tie, the Tigers win the league. If Fort Hays, UCM, Washburn tie, then it comes down to tiebreakers and Washburn would win.

"We can't worry about that," coach Mark Johnson said. "All we need to do is just go worry about Missouri Western on Wednesday night and find a way to finish this season off with two home wins.

"I think if we can get two home wins and finish with 19 wins ... .That's something to be proud of," he added. "Now, if you don't take care of home next week, you have different thoughts. We've got ourselves to this point with a week to go."

While FHSU has ranked near the top offensively, Johnson believes his team can still improve defensively in the final stretch.

"Over the years, I feel like we have been one, two or three defensive team in the league and we are not there," he said. "I feel like we are a middle of the road defensive team ... Part of it is our personnel. We are not athletic at times, and we are big and slow at times, and that gives us problems. We've just got to find a way to get stops."

Congiusta still hurting

Senior guard Ben Congiusta has led the league in minutes played (34.3) virtually all season and ranks in the top-three in 3-pointers made per game and 3-point field goal percentage. However, Congiusta has felt some ankle issues ever since a 78-71 home win against Central Oklahoma on Jan. 30. Including that game, Congiusta had six straight contests with no more than 11 points.

On Saturday, he tallied 20 points, including six treys, to lead the team in scoring.

"To be honest, my ankle is still bothering me," he said. "I have a problem with it on the inside. It hurts when I run, so I have been trying to manage it the best I can everyday. I try not to think about it during the game. It does hurt, but I am just trying to do the best that I can for the team."