Wild win for Tiger men
By CONOR NICHOLL
Junior guard Achoki Moikobu came to Fort Hays State University by way of Yuba (Calif.) College. Moikobu, a Seattle native, averages 4.3 points and 2.3 assists in limited time behind sophomore point guard Craig Nicholson.
Yet Moikobu never complained. Since the start of the season, Moikobu has kept a ritual of shooting and dribbling with freshman Drew Kite. Even after some games, Moikobu and Kite will come back to a virtually empty Gross Memorial Coliseum and hone their skills.
On Thursday, Moikobu finished with 15 points off the bench in a 99-92 double overtime home victory against Emporia State University.
"Achoki played big," Nicholson said. "One thing that they don't know about Achoki is he is the one that works the hardest, and he's pushing me outside of practice. We wouldn't have won that game without Achoki."
Moikobu finished 4 of 5 from the field and 3 of 3 from long range and enjoyed his second double-figure game, first since a 16-point effort versus NAIA Sterling College on Nov. 30.
"You can't get better going home and not putting in the extra time," Moikobu said. "Just going home and sitting around playing video games or do whatever. You've just got to put the time in when everyone else is sleeping. I pride myself on being in the gym."
Nicholson finished with 36 points, the most by a Tiger since Alonzo Goldston tallied 36 against Western State (Colo.) College in 1996. Senior Dwayne Brunson added 24.
"Craig was big," coach Mark Johnson said. "Dwayne was huge. But Achoki - that's the thing about having character. We all come here to play. Everybody wants to play. He didn't come here to play the minutes that he is playing. Not one day did he ever pout, have a bad attitude, bring the team down. He is always positive, kept working, kept working, kept working. He had his time."
Especially in the overtimes, Moikobu stepped up after senior guard Carson Konrade fouled out. Moikobu entered the contest 11 of 41 (26.8 percent) from long range this season.
"It was good to see the ball finally go through the hoop," Moikobu said. "I think I deserved that the way the rim has been treating me all year. Pretty much confidence and the repetitions finally paying off, and hopefully I can carry it over to the next game."
Fort Hays, ranked No. 24 in NCAA Division II, won its ninth straight contest, eighth in MIAA play and moved to 17-3, 8-3 MIAA. Emporia State dropped to 14-7, 7-4 MIAA. The Tigers have won six in a row at home versus ESU, but three of the games are decided by one point/overtime.
Overall, three of the last four contests in the series have gone to overtime. Thursday marked the second time in the 176-game series a game has went multiple overtimes, first since a 4-OT 54-52 Tiger victory in 1981-82. The contest had 16 ties and 17 lead changes, but ESU led 64 percent of the game. FHSU will play next host to Washburn University in a 4 p.m. start Saturday.
FHSU came back from 10 down in regulation, trailed by two with 65 seconds left in the first overtime and by two with under two minutes left in the second overtime.
"It was a great win," Johnson said. "Really proud of our guys. It didn't look good."
The Tigers are 3-2 in overtime games and broke the record of four overtime games from 1978-79. The five OT contests tied a MIAA single season record. Nicholson smiled and called the OTs "exhausting."
"It wears on your body, but as long as we keep fighting and keep getting the win, that's all that matters," Nicholson said.
Emporia State has senior guard Kaleb Wright (30 points), senior center Paul Bunch (22 points, 10 rebounds) and sophomore guard Terrence Moore (20 points). Johnson called the threesome maybe the conference's best trio and labeled Bunch probably the MIAA's best weakside rebounder. Moore is Nicholson's cousin.
"It's always fun playing against my cousin," Nicholson said. "He always gives me his best game, but it's been like this since middle school. I am used to it by now. It's like we are brothers. We are always fighting against each other. But when we are inside the lines, we are enemies, but outside we are still family."
Fort Hays never led in the second half until 1 minute, 49 seconds remained in regulation. Nicholson stole the ball, and guarded by Moore, flew to the hoop. Known for some amazing shots, Nicholson tossed the ball up against the top of the backboard, and it went through.
"To be honest, I don't know," Nicholson said of how the ball went in. "I jump stopped and did a layup."
"Sometimes, I swear he closes his eyes and says a prayer before throws it up there," Moikobu said. "God helps him."
Moore careened out of bounds and injured himself against the bleacher base and missed a few minutes, but later returned.
Nicholson's free throw gave the Tigers a 69-68 lead. With 11 seconds to go, Nicholson had a chance to break a 71-71 tie, but missed a free throw. He collected himself and helped FHSU go 12 of 13 on free throws in overtime.
"I hate missing free throws," Nicholson, an 81 percent foul shooter, said. "I thought back to Central Missouri (on Dec. 5) and we could have won, but I missed my free throws. I just wasn't going to let us lose because of me missing my free throws."
In the second overtime, Moikobu made a trey from the top of the key to tie the game at 86 with 3:04 left. Then, he kick-started a 6-0 run and gave FHSU the lead for good with another 3, this time from the left corner, for a 92-91 lead.
"He is a great kid," Johnson said. "He is a gym rat. He loves basketball. I am just happy for him."