KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Missed opportunities down the stretch plagued the Fort Hays State men's basketball team in a season-ending 74-69 loss to Lincoln in the MIAA Tournament quarterfinals on Friday at Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Mo.
The Tigers finished the season at 18-11 while Lincoln, also 18-11, moved on to the semifinals to face unbeaten Northwest Missouri State.
FHSU was down a point with 3:20 left but came up empty on three straight offensive possession. Lincoln's Terrence Smith then hit a 3-pointer to push the Blue Tigers' lead to four with 46 seconds.
Both teams excelled from the 3-point line, with Lincoln going 12 of 27 and Fort Hays 11 of 27. The Tigers were hurt by a 10 of 18 showing at the foul line.
“We just could not guard them from the 3-point line, especially in the first half,” FHSU coach Mark Johnson said in his postgame news conference. “Thought we did a really a good job fourth quarter. Really, up until that point, we couldn’t get enough stops. We finally got enough stops in the last 12 minutes of the game. Obviously, the foul line for us was a factor. We missed two many free throws.”
Lincoln closed the first half on a 10-0 run and took a 39-33 lead into halftime. The Blue Tigers never trailed in the second half. FHSU trailed by 11 within the first minute of the second half before clawing back to get it down to a point on two occasions in the last eight minutes.
“Give them credit and also give our guys credit,” Johnson said. “A lot of teams would have lost that game by about 14 and walked away. We came back twice. It got away from us and we came back again — that’s just the character of our guys.”
Aaron Nicholson paced the Tigers with 18 points, hitting 7 of 10 attempts from the field and knocking down four 3-pointers. Kyler Kinnamon finished with 12 points and five assists. Trey O'Neil added 11 and Marcus Cooper had 10. First-team All-MIAA pick Brady Werth had eight points and a team-high 10 rebounds.
Grant Olsson led Lincoln with 23 points, going 5 of 5 from 3-point range.
The Tigers were without junior forward Devin Davis, who suffered a knee injury in the regular-season finale against Pittsburg State.
The Tigers won at least 18 games for the fourth consecutive season. FHSU will lose five seniors — Werth, Kinnamon, Cooper, O'Neil and Grant Holmes.
“I don’t have to get on them hard (in practice),” Johnson said. “They’re coachable guys — that’s what we’ll miss most about them. Obviously they’re talented, but that’s well miss most about them, just who they are every day.”