Lewis’ buzzer-beater sends Ichabods to 80-78 win at Fort Hays

Rick Peterson Jr.
Washburn players mob Jalen Lewis after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Washburn an 80-78 win over Fort Hays State at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

HAYS — With a little improvisation, Washburn got the ball in the right guy’s hands in the final seconds of Thursday’s opener at Fort Hays State.

Down a point and inbounding on the side with 2.8 seconds left, the Ichabods managed to work the ball to sharpshooter Jalen Lewis on somewhat of a broken play.

Lewis took one dribble to his left and buried a clean look from the wing at the buzzer, sending the Ichabods to an 80-78 win at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

“I had drawn up a man play and (and Fort Hays) went zone, so to be honest, that was improvised,” Washburn coach Brett Ballard said. “We’re fortunate that we have a pretty experienced backcourt ... they ended up making the right play. Jalen was able to free himself, and we were lucky the shot went in.”

The ball was inbounded on the right wing to Tyler Nelson, who took two dribbles toward the free throw line before kicking it out to an open Lewis at the top of the key. Lewis released the ball just before the buzzer sounded.

“As soon as he jumped up to shoot it, as good of a shooter as he is, you just kind of knew it was in,” Fort Hays State coach Mark Johnson said. “I was like, ’That’s going to go in.’ ”

Lewis’ buzzer-beater was the last of three clutch 3s the Ichabods hit over in the final 1:14 of the game.

After FHSU, which trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half, went up by four with 1:25 to go, Drew Maschoff’s trey cut the Tiger lead to a point.

The Ichabods then got a stop and regained the lead on Lewis’ 3-pointer with 19 seconds left.

FHSU’s Jared Viztum got a friendly bounce on a 3 to put the Tigers in front with 8.3 seconds remaining. The Tigers knocked it out of bounds with 2.8 left before Lewis’ capper.

“I was proud of the poise we played with the last two minutes of the game; we could have got rattled,” Ballard said. “I give a ton of credit to Hays. To be honest I thought they outplayed us the last thirty-two minutes of the game. I thought the first eight (minutes) were great. We were in control. (Fort Hays) could have folded, and they didn’t.

“...Happy our guys found a way, and really happy for Jalen Lewis making that shot.”

WU guards Lewis, Tyler Geiman, Drew Maschoff combined for 55 points and 11 3-pointers. Maschoff and Geiman shared game-high honors with 20 each. Geiman dished out nine assists and had five rebounds, while Maschoff grabbed a team-high six boards and had three steals.

Lewis added 15 points, going 5 of 7 from behind the arc. WU finished from 14 of 29 from 3-point range.

The Ichabods came out on fire early, building a 27-13 lead with 8:04 left in the first half, but FHSU used a 12-2 run to cut the lead down to four. The Tigers trailed 38-34 at halftime and grabbed the lead on six different occasions in the second half.

“We executed well, and defensively we were pretty turned up, and then we had some turnovers,” Ballard said. “I thought the turnovers were the biggest thing in the first half that kind of allowed Hays to climb back in. And then from there, they were really good.”

WU kept Tiger senior forward Jared Vitztum, a third-team All-MIAA pick last season, in check for most of the way, but Vitztum scored 10 in the last 2:26 of the game to finish with 16 to lead the Tigers. He was 5 of 16 from the floor.

“He was a huge key in our scouting report,” Ballard said. “I thought we did a pretty good job on him. He got 16, but he took 16 shots. He made a big shot late. He’s really good. Fortunately some shots he normally makes didn’t go in.”

Attendance is limited to 25 percent maximum capacity for FHSU home games. The crowd was listed at 1,265 on Thursday.

“You’re used to coming into this place where people are sitting right behind you, on top of you,” Ballard said. “The crowd noise was solid, but it’s a little different than what you’re used to.

“It did, in a way, feel normal, but in some ways it still is a little bit surreal, the atmosphere that we have to play in. And still a little bit surreal that we actually got to play.”

The Ichabods are scheduled to play at Nebraska-Kearney at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Jalen Lewis' puts in a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Washburn an 80-78 win over Fort Hays State on Thursday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.