Hillcat 3-point play in waning seconds decides close battle in Claremore
CLAREMORE, Okla. – In a back-and-forth battle late in the second half, the Tigers came up on the short end of a 69-66 decision at Rogers State. The Tigers tied the game with 14 seconds remaining, but Rogers State converted a 3-point play with four ticks remaining to snap FHSU's four-game win streak. Both teams are now 8-9 on the season.
The game never saw a lead larger than seven points and the lead changed hands 12 times. The Tigers enjoyed a brief two-point lead in the first half, but the Hillcats held a slim advantage most of the opening frame and eventually led 33-28 at halftime.
Rogers State's lead reached seven points four times after the break, but a 10-2 run had the Tigers back in front by one at the midway point of the second half. From that point, the lead kept going back and forth with neither team leading by more than three points the rest of the way.
Quinten Rock hit a 3-pointer in the right corner to put the Tigers up two with 1:39 remaining, but after gathering an offensive rebound, Rogers State went back up one on a Devin Pullum 3-pointer with 58 seconds remaining. FHSU had two chances at a bucket but came up empty and then RSU hit one of two free throws to lead by two. Kaleb Hammeke knotted the score for the seventh time (65-65) by hitting a runner up the left side of the paint with 14 seconds left, but Rogers State took a timeout with 10 seconds remaining to set up its final offensive look. The Hillcats made good on their offensive chance as Darraja Parnell banked in a shot and was fouled with four seconds remaining. He added the free throw to make the advantage three.
Instead of letting the Tigers get a late look at a 3-pointer, the Hillcats fouled Hammeke near midcourt to set up a 1-and-1 at the line. Hammeke hit the first, but had to miss the second on purpose. The Tigers were not able to corral the loose ball and Rogers State closed out the game by hitting one of two more free throws.
Jared Vitztum led the Tigers with his NCAA Division II-leading ninth double-double of the season, producing 20 points and 11 rebounds. Bjarni Jonsson had a big game for the Tigers with a new career high of 14 points and a match of his career high in rebounds with seven. Nyjee Wright scored all 12 of his points on four 3-point field goals, while Hammeke also had 12 points and a team-high five assists.
Parnell led the Hillcats with 22 points, while Jett Sternberger had 18 and Pullum added 11. The free-throw line was the difference maker for Rogers State, where they made 13 more than the Tigers and attempted 16 more throws.
Fort Hays State looks to regroup from the tough loss and try for a winning road trip on Saturday at Northeastern State. The Tigers are 1-1 on their trip to Oklahoma so far. Tipoff is set for 3:30 pm in Tahlequah.