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Wild win for Tiger women

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

At the end of regulation, the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team had shot 37 percent from the field, including 3 of 20 from 3-point range. Northwest Missouri State University hit 41 percent and 8 of 15 from beyond the arc. The Tigers were minus-12 in rebounding margin.

The Tigers trailed by seven with under 7:30 to play. Northwest Missouri had the final possession at the end of regulation and first overtime. Still, Fort Hays continually came back and eventually earned a wild 79-69 double overtime victory Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

"I just told them, that if you guys don't get anything else for Christmas, you already received somewhat of a gift from them," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "I don't think that they gave us the game, but they gave us the opportunity to come back and win it, because I thought Northwest played great. You've got to hand it to them."

FHSU, receiving votes in the NCAA Division II national poll, completed the pre-holiday break schedule at 8-1, 2-1 MIAA.

Northwest Missouri dropped to 3-7, 0-3 MIAA, but lost the first two league games by a combined six points. Saturday marked the Tigers' first close game this winter.

"We definitely needed this," sophomore point guard Beth Bohuslavsky said. "I think this is going to help us in the future. We are not going to blow teams out by 20, 30. It's going to be a close game every time. The new girls know what it's like to play in a close game. They better be ready for a game like this every time, because it's a tough conference."

Last year, Fort Hays went 22-7, but lost five games by 10 points or fewer and went 0-2 in overtime contests. That included a double overtime loss at Truman State (Mo.) University last season in the lone matchup against the Bulldogs. This winter, former TSU coach Michael Smith is in his first year with Northwest Missouri.

"We don't give up," sophomore transfer guard Chelsea Mason said. "Last year, Kate said that we would be in these close kind of games, and we would lose. We did not give up, not one second in that game and in either overtime. I want to give everything to my teammates. I love them to death."

Mason finished with a game-high 23 points, including two 3s that sparked a 10-0 run to open the second overtime.

"One thing about is Chelsea is -- and you saw it tonight -- she is not afraid of the moment," Hobson said. "...I think we have got several on our team who are willing to take the risk."

Junior center Kate Lehman finished with 21 points and tied her career-high with 17 rebounds. Bohuslavsky collected eight points, including the second of two foul shots that tied the game at 65 with 6.9 seconds in the first overtime. Sophomore Taylor Chandler had just two points, but the basket was a key play in the second half, and finished with three rebounds, two blocks and two steals.

"Honestly, if you are going to talk to me, you might as well talk to everybody," Mason said. "Because everybody had a part in that game. It was just a great game."

Northwest Missouri, paced by 20 points by junior Ariel Easton, led by eight midway through the first half, but the Tigers forced three shot clock violations and tied the score at 25 entering intermission.

Down 49-42, the 5-foot-5 Chandler scored her only basket of the game at the 7:27 mark of regulation. Chandler grabbed an offensive rebound, her fourth of the year, and fought off several Bearcats for a basket in the paint. That started a 13-4 Tiger run.

"Lately, our guards have been struggling getting rebounds," Bohuslavsky said. "We have been relying on our posts to get rebounds."

FHSU had a chance to take the lead, but Edwards missed a free throw with 30 seconds left. At the end of regulation, Northwest senior point guard Monique Stevens missed an open 3.

"We have been in a lot of close games that we couldn't pull out, so I am happy that we hung in there and never quit, because it's easy to quit playing when you can't make one go through the basket," Hobson said.

Northwest Missouri led 65-64 in the final seconds of the first overtime after a layup from sophomore Tember Schechinger. Bohuslavsky drove to the lane and drew the foul. She missed the first free throw, walked around to gather herself, took a deep breath and made the second one.

"You've got to get it," Bohuslavsky said.

In the second overtime, FHSU opened with a trey from freshman Niki Kacperska and then two 3s from Mason, both from the left wing, to give FHSU a lead it wouldn't relinquish.

"You've just got to believe," Bohuslavsky said.