KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Offensive droughts didn’t stop the Fort Hays State women’s basketball team from making a run at the MIAA Tournament title, with FHSU finding ways to grind out wins in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
However, the struggles to score finally caught up to the Tigers in the championship game against No. 9-seeded Lindenwood, costing FHSU its first MIAA Tournament title in program history.
FHSU went just 19 of 64 from the floor for 30 percent as Lindenwood continued its cinderella run with a 58-51 win over the Tigers on Sunday in Municipal Auditorium.
“We’ve been living dangerously for a few games as far as struggling in long stretches to score the ball. It caught up with us today,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. “Our defense again kept us in there for the whole game. But if comes down to you have to make a shot eventually."
The loss made for an anxious few hours Sunday night as the Tigers awaited their NCAA regional fate. However, FHSU apparently proved enough to the regional committee with wins over Emporia State and Pittsburg State on the week.
Fort Hays (25-6) was picked No. 6 in the Central Regional field and will face Southwestern Oklahoma State (26-4) in the first round of the tournament on Friday in Sioux Falls, S.D.
In the final, FHSU looked poised for their best offensive outing of the tournament early on after jumping out to a 15-2 lead and holding a 19-9 advantage at the end of the first quarter. However, the Tigers quickly lost their rhythm in the second frame as Lindenwood closed the gap to 30-27 by halftime.
“We just kind of quit moving and just kind of stood around,” FHSU guard Kacey Kennett said. “I feel like that’s kind of been our problem lately, we just get into a mode where we just start standing. We had pretty good movement at the beginning and just got stagnant.”
FHSU’s biggest struggles came from the perimeter, with the Tigers making just 2 of 23 from 3-point attempts.
“Two for 23, you should be able to kick that many in,” Hobson said. “We just have to shoot better.”
Lindenwood, which claimed its first MIAA Tournament title, grabbed its first lead late in the third quarter and trailed FHSU 40-38 heading to the fourth. The Lions opened the last frame on 8-0 run and stayed in front.
The Tigers cut the lead to two with 2:26 left on a layup from Carly Heim but Lindenwood’s Lindsey Medlen banked in a 3-pointer with 1:53 to push the Lions' lead to five.
Medlen later delivered the dagger by putting Lindenwood up six on another trey with 38 seconds left.
Gabby Walker led the Lions with 17 points off the bench and Medlen finished with 14.
The Lions became the lowest seed to win the MIAA Tournament.
“I’m kind of speechless right now,” Lions coach Tony Francis said. “We expected to be here. We talked about this probably about two weeks ago, put it up on our locker room.”
Heim was the only Tiger in double figures with 14.
Central Missouri was the only other MIAA team to receive an at-large bid to the regional, drawing the No. 2 seed and facing Minnesota State-Moorhead. Lindenwood received an automatic berth by winning the MIAA Tournament and will take on top-seeded Augustana, the host school.
Pittsburg State was left out of the regional despite a 23-7 record. The Gorillas were ranked fifth in the last edition of the regional rankings but were likely knocked out after Lindenwood won the MIAA title.