WICHITA, Kan. – The Tiger Men's Basketball team did its part in an attempt to qualify for the MIAA Tournament, but did not get the help it needed elsewhere as FHSU tied for ninth in the MIAA standings but fell short of the 10 qualifying teams due to the conference's tiebreaker format. FHSU closed out its season with a 79-69 win at Newman on Saturday (Feb. 29), finishing 14-14 overall.
FHSU had to win on Saturday to have any chance at qualifying for the conference tournament. However, the Tigers needed Central Missouri to win at Pittsburg State to get in. Though Central Missouri kept the game close throughout, Pittsburg State prevailed at home 80-73 to lock up the final spot in the conference tournament. In the three-way tiebreaker with Lincoln and Pittsburg State, Lincoln finished 2-1 in games among the three teams, Pittsburg State finished with the same mark, and FHSU went 0-2 against both.
Neither team led by more than six points in the first half. The Tigers ended the opening half on a 15-9 run to take a four-point lead to the locker room, 39-35. Nyjee Wright was a perfect 5-of-5 from the field in the first half with 13 points, hitting three 3-point field goals.
FHSU grew its lead to double figures between the 10 and 6-minute marks of the second half, but Newman went on a 12-2 run to trim the lead down to one with just 2:39 to play. It looked as though it would be another tight finish between the Tigers and Jets inside Fugate Gymnasium like in recent years, but moments later, the momentum all unraveled for the Jets with a series of technical fouls.
On the ensuing Tiger possession, Devin Davis drove the ball to the basket and drew a hard foul from Marshawn Blackmon. After video review, the officials ruled that the shooting foul was also a flagrant No. 2 foul on Blackmon, which ejected him from the game. The decision drew the ire of Newman head coach R.J. Allen, who showed his displeasure to the officials. He was quickly assessed two technical fouls for the outburst and also ejected. The Tigers had eight free throws to shoot all in the blink of an eye. FHSU made half of the eight attempts, pushing their lead to five. Moments later in frustration, another Newman player committed another flagrant foul, and the Tigers buried one of two shots. The Tigers received the ball after all the free throws and Davis hit a jumper in the lane to push the lead out to eight with under two minutes to play. The Jets had no more fuel in the tank after the complete change in momentum. FHSU pushed its lead to 11 one more time before the final margin settled at 10.
Jared Vitztum led the Tigers by falling just one point shy of his career high. He had 24 points on 5-of-9 shooting from the field and a 12-of-17 effort at the free-throw line. He added a team-high nine rebounds. Wright had 18 points, Davis had 15, and Aaron Nicholson finished with 13.
Blackmon led Newman with 19 points and eight rebounds, while David Javorsky added 13.
After a tough 1-9 start to conference play this year, the Tigers rallied to go 6-3 in their final nine MIAA games. Unfortunately, a home loss to Pittsburg State and an overtime loss at Lincoln came back to sting in the end in the tiebreaker for a tournament berth.