By JD Hershberger – Horizon Sports Reporter
HESSTON, KS – Hesston men’s basketball head coach Dustin Galyon would never attribute a victory to anything but a complete team effort, but the return of starters Eyan Roth and Malcolm Mann certainly didn’t hurt in Hesston’s 88-75 win over Rhema Bible College. Freshman Darrion Martin led the Larks scoring in scoring yet again with 18, but Galyon’s attribution to the entire team effort is entirely fair. Five Larks reached double figures in scoring as Hesston started 2014 off on a positive note.
“Getting all of our starters back was huge, both for their play but mostly their leadership. But it isn’t two guys; it’s 15 guys. We’ve been practicing great and we have a tremendous amount of focus,” said Galyon.
But the night did not start off like that. The cheers for Roth and Mann’s return were quickly silenced by Rhema’s quick start. The three-point shooting of Kasey Byrd and the inside play of John Leonard helped Rhema stake a 20-8 lead just seven minutes into the game. Despite the added depth, Hesston appeared as lost as they ever did in their 2-13 first half of the season.
It was then that a flip switched for Hesston. Maybe Rhema simply couldn’t keep up their hot shooting forever. Maybe Hesston was merely lacking the finishing touches at the rim. Whatever it was the Larks took the opening punch and punched right back with a 15-0 run over the next four minutes to turn the deficit into a 23-20 lead. The Eagles managed to snap the run at that point, but the Larks continued to hit the gas and expand their lead until the halftime scoreboard read 47-33 in their favor.
“We came out a little too excited,” said Galyon. “They came out and hit some tough shots and it wasn’t until we settled down that we started to play well. We didn’t panic after their big start and I think that’s a reflection of our focus.”
The second half featured the tight matchup that was expected going into the game. Hesston’s 14-point halftime lead never got higher than 16 points, but never dipped below 9 points either as the Larks and Eagles fought to the very end despite Hesston leading the entire half.
After a dismal first half to the season, Galyon was excited to start the new year on the right foot.
“This win is huge,” he said. ‘To come back from break with this kind of commitment to progression is key. We came to tonight’s game prepared to win and that’s what we did.”
Hesston’s top scorers also included sophomore Tra Smoot with 15 points, freshman Jordan Tanner (14), and freshman Malcolm Mann (11).
Hesston (4-13) will play next Jan. 22 at Brown Mackie College (Salina, Kan.) and will play at home on Jan. 25 against Johnson County Community College.