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Tiger women begin season tonight

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University women's basketball coach Tony Hobson and senior forward Katelyn Edwards agree the Tigers have plenty of depth and many players with different skills.

Junior center Kate Lehman, a returning first team all-MIAA player and conference Defensive Player of the Year, is a great scorer and shot blocker. Edwards, a two-time all-league player, is athletic and can score. Senior forward Tera Ingalsbe is one of the league's most efficient all-around shooters.

Junior Keriann Shaw and sophomore Taylor Chandler are more defensive-minded. Sophomore point guard Beth Bohuslavsky is a solid player who runs the team well; Hobson calls her "wise beyond her years."

Among the newcomers, sophomore guard Chelsea Mason, a transfer from NCAA Division I Kennesaw State University, is the Tigers' best perimeter scorer. She is one of, if not the team's best 3-point shooter.

"I can see a lot of people playing just because they bring a lot of different qualities to the team," Edwards said.

Plus, the Tigers have enjoyed strong character and high-quality kids in the last several years. Hobson said this winter's team is no different.

"Our chemistry as a result, is better than it could be otherwise," Hobson said. "Some very good offensive players in our incoming class, and they have got a long way to go defensively."

The mix opens the season at 6 p.m. today at Northwestern Oklahoma State University in Alva, Okla. Fort Hays is receiving votes in the NCAA Division II national poll and was picked fourth in the MIAA preseason poll.

"We have all been really looking forward to the season, because I think that we were peaking at the end of last year and we want to really carry that into this year, and we have a lot of new girls," Edwards said. "So we are all still learning to play with each other, but athletically, I think that we have some girls that are really going to help us."

NWOSU is 0-2. Fort Hays went 22-7 last season and 20-9 the year before, the best two seasons with Hobson.

"They are athletic and they try to get out and play out on the court," Hobson said of NWOSU. "They press a couple different ways. They play some zone, they play a 1-3-1, they play a 2-3, they play a lot of man."

Last season, Lehman paced the team with 16.4 points, 8.4 rebounds, 123 blocks and shot 69 percent from the free throw line.

Lehman has greatly improved her core, speed and strength throughout her career; Hobson has noticed a stronger, more fit Lehman this year. Lehman has gotten many of her points just by being active and running the floor. In the offseason, Hobson spent time with her in the low post and playing with her back to the basket.

Last season, Lehman, Edwards and Ingalsbe (7.5 points, 47 percent shooting, 85 percent from the line) rarely played on the floor at the same time. This season, Hobson looks for Lehman and Ingalsbe to play between six and 10 minutes a game together.

Edwards was second with 13.1 points and 7.9 rebounds, but shot just 64.2 percent from the line.

Of the team's 721 foul shots, Edwards took 187, Lehman 184.

Hobson wants Lehman and Edwards above 70 percent. Edwards has shot thousands of free throws since March. Instead of just taking thousands of shots, Edwards has focused on shooting two, then taking a break, then shooting two, just like a game.

"Her game is getting to the basket," Hobson said. "The way they are calling it now, they are calling it a little closer. She is going to shoot a lot of free throws, and the difference between shooting 65 percent from the line and shooting 75 percent for her is going to be one or two points a game over the course of a year."