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Tiger women lose lead, fall to Washburn

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Through the first 12 minutes of the second half, the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team comfortably led Washburn University, including a lead of 11 points at one time.

The Tigers worked the ball inside to sophomore center Kate Lehman, who took advantage of one-on-one matchups to finish with 17 points and eight rebounds, both team-highs.

FHSU rarely turned the ball over, played strong defense and didn't foul. With 8 minutes, 15 seconds left, the Tigers led by nine. Then, Fort Hays had several turnovers and collected multiple fouls. The Lady Blues hit baskets late in the shot clock.

Fort Hays eventually took a gut-wrenching 63-60 loss to Washburn on Thursday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Lehman missed two free throws with 6.9 seconds left that would have tied the score.

"I think this is a really tough loss because we played so well," Tiger junior Katelyn Edwards said. "We beat ourselves. They didn't beat us. It's always harder when you know that you made mistakes. They didn't really beat you."

Fort Hays, ranked No. 18 in NCAA Division II, lost its third straight and fell to 10-3, 2-3 MIAA. The Tigers dropped their first home game this winter and fell to 1-9 versus Washburn under coach Tony Hobson.

The Tigers' three defeats have come against Northeastern (Okla.) State University, Emporia State and Washburn, squads that traditionally reach the NCAA tournament. As well, junior forward Tera Ingalsbe, a solid reserve who tallied seven points in 12 minutes Thursday, twisted her knee with 4:19 left and didn't return. Hobson called her day-to-day.

"We just have a bunch of girls who I don't think are going to let our team fall apart," Edwards said. "Emporia and Washburn, in my book, are two of the hardest teams to beat in our conference. We still should have beat them, but we can come back from this and we know that we can beat these teams. I think that this was the low point in our season."

Washburn, No. 12 nationally, improved to 9-2, 3-0 MIAA and remains the lone team unbeaten in conference play.

"It's just a shame to let an opportunity like that go, but when you don't take care of the ball at key moments and you don't make your free throws, you are not going to win tight games," Hobson said.

The Tigers led 28-26 at halftime and built the score to 53-44 midway through the second half. From the 7:28 to the 5:42 mark, Fort Hays turned the ball over three times. Washburn went on a 10-0 run and took a 54-53 lead with 5:32 left.

"We made some just foolish turnovers," Hobson said. "We tried to force a backdoor cut, threw it away. We threw away two entry passes into their hands. We quit doing what we were doing to get ahead."

The Lady Blues' run included two baskets at the end of the shot clock. Senior point guard Laura Kinderknecht (game-high 18 points) scored on a runner as the buzzer went off. With 6:17 left, sophomore Casyn Buchman made a guarded trey from well beyond the 3-point line as the shot clock expired.

"It's a 30-footer off the glass, it's just a lucky shot," Hobson said. "It's one of those things, if that doesn't go in, we win the game. But it did and you have to deal with that. Sometimes it happens. What else can you do?"

Down 60-58, Fort Hays tied the game at 60 on a layup from Edwards with 1:23 remaining. Then, senior Stormye Everettt tallied a layup down the right side with 13 seconds left.

"We just mentally need to push ourselves so that we are able to play longer," Edwards said.

Lehman had a chance to tie the game but missed a short jumper off the backboard. She grabbed her own rebound and collected a foul. But Lehman, a 73 percent free throw shooter, missed both foul shots. Fort Hays shot just 57 percent from the line for the contest.

After FHSU missed a half court heave at the buzzer, Lehman momentarily stood by herself at the Tiger bench, wore a disappointed look and put her hands on her head. After the game, Edwards and the team told Lehman that it was a "team effort" in the loss.

Fort Hays will have a week off before it plays host to Southwest Baptist (Mo.) University next Wednesday.

"I didn't guard my girl on the other end there (on Everett's layup)," Edwards said. "So Kate, shooting those free throws, she could have been shooting them to win the game rather than to tie it up. We all made mistakes throughout the game and that was just another one of them. It wasn't anything different.

"We missed free throws all throughout the first half," she added. "... Just because it was the end of the game doesn't mean that it was her fault that we lost."