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Tiger women play well in win

By CONOR NICHOLL
cnicholl@dailynews.net
Fort Hays State University sophomore center Kate Lehman shot two free throws at the 8 minute, 23 second mark of the first half. She made the first foul shot and missed the second.

Senior Kelsie Sorenson grabbed the offensive rebound. Lehman missed a layup, but senior Kaiameka Brown got the rebound underneath the basket. Brown couldn’t score, but her shot attempt went out of bounds and the Tigers retained possession for the third offensive rebound of the possession.

After the inbound, Lehman made a jumper to push the Tiger lead to 12 points. The 34-second sequence encapsulated a dominating effort from FHSU in a 73-56 home victory against Missouri Western State University on Wednesday night at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

“We were just flying to the glass, and we just dominated the boards,” Tiger coach Tony Hobson said. “A lot of second shots. Boy, if you can do that and play reasonable defense, you have got a good chance to win.”

From Jan. 24 to Feb. 16, the Tigers won six straight contests before they suffered a 61-41 defeat at Washburn University, ranked No. 5 in NCAA Division II, on Saturday. Hobson, Sorenson and senior guard Melissa Nelson agreed FHSU played better Wednesday than during the winning streak.

“I could tell our kids had the look,” Hobson said. “They were focused and knew what we had to do, and I thought our intensity level was great.”

Sorenson said the team was “pretty excited” to play at Washburn and “kind of overcompensated.”

The Tigers scored the fewest points under Hobson. FHSU returned to form versus the Griffons.

Fort Hays held a 51-28 rebounding edge, and Lehman finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

Junior Katelyn Edwards produced a game-high 23 points and nine rebounds. Nelson, out since Jan. 24 with a knee injury, returned, and played nine minutes with three points.

“I think we played with more of a clear mind tonight,” Sorenson said.

Fort Hays, receiving votes in the national poll, dropped out of the newest Central Region rankings released Wednesday afternoon. The Tigers improved to 19-6, 11-6 MIAA, while Missouri Western dropped to 14-11, 7-10 MIAA.

Fort Hays is guaranteed no worse than the seventh seed in the MIAA postseason tournament, but can’t finish in the top four and earn a first-round bye next week. Instead, the Tigers will finish the regular season Friday at home against Lincoln (Mo.) University. Then, FHSU will play at home again next Tuesday in the first round.

The Tigers won their sixth straight home game against Missouri Western with another change in the starting lineup. Hobson used his seventh different lineup this year with Edwards, Lehman, Sorenson, Brown and senior Traci Keyser.

“This is their last week at home,” Hobson said. “We have started eight or nine different people. I just think that you have got to give your seniors an opportunity.”

Before the game, Sorenson told fellow four-year senior Keyser, “this is it.”

Sorenson, who had five points in her previous seven games, finished with six points and one rebound.

“My goal was to come out as best as I could,” Sorenson said. “All of our seniors were thinking, ‘This is our last times. We want to come out right and start the game off right and get us off on the right foot. … We have to start producing and we have to start leading our
team, and I think we did that tonight.”

Keyser scored nine points, including hitting 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

“When you’ve got it all going, and you hit a few outside shots, which is great for your mental health, we are pretty tough,” Hobson said.

Brown had struggled some recently and lost her starting job to freshman Beth Bohuslavsky.

However, Brown contributed two points, a career-high five rebounds, four assists against one turnover and played solid defense.

“Kai Brown played extremely well,” Hobson said.

Fort Hays never trailed and had a 14-8 lead when Nelson entered the game with 13:30 remaining in the first half. Nelson, who redshirted two seasons ago because a knee injury, labeled her return “relieving.”

Nelson, cleared Tuesday, had her lone points on a trey from the top of the key with 9:51 left before half.

“They told me that it would be two weeks for sure and probably three,” she said. “Our goal was Senior Night, so we are a little ahead of that.”

Missouri Western, led by 14 points from junor guard JaQuitta Dever, forced 22 Tiger turnovers.  lengthened it to 24 late in the second half.

“It is just kind of a freelance, so you have to live with a few turnovers, because when we did beat the pressure, we got really good shots and shot a good percentage,” Hobson said. “I figured we would have a few more than normal, 22 is too many. We probably could have
cut that down five or six. But overall I thought we did a good job."