FHSU women get big lift in win against UCO
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Fort Hays State University women's basketball team has dealt with multiple obstacles since Jan. 1, especially in the last 10 days. Entering Wednesday night, the Tigers had dropped five of their last seven.
Since Jan. 19, FHSU lost twice on the road by a combined five points to teams that have been ranked in the top 25.
Plus, senior guard Melissa Nelson is likely out for the season with a knee injury suffered last Thursday. This week, FHSU received more adversity when senior point guard Kaiameka Brown hurt her ankle in practice and didn't play Wednesday night.
"I think a lot of teams would break," junior Katelyn Edwards said.
Instead, the Tigers rallied late for an 84-78 victory against University of Central Oklahoma at Gross Memorial Coliseum. FHSU improved to 13-5, 5-5 MIAA, while the Bronchos dropped to 8-10, 1-9 MIAA.
"Everyone is able to step up and fill in when other people are not there," Edwards said. "I think that is such a great quality about our team is that we have so much depth. Everyone can kind of play every position, and it is really good for us."
Fort Hays trailed 75-74, but freshman Taylor Chandler got a steal at midcourt from junior Britney Morgan, and drew an intentional foul with 78 seconds left. She made 1 of 2 free throws and FHSU never trailed again.
"I just knew that I had to play really good defense and try to get a stop," said Chandler, who is tied with Nelson with a team-high 30 steals this year. "She opened up, so I got the opportunity to go for the steal."
Chandler helped force another turnover with five seconds to go as UCO tried to tie the game. In addition, Edwards and freshman Beth Bohuslavsky went 4 of 4 on foul shots in the final 14 seconds. FHSU improved to 1-3 in games decided by six points or fewer.
"A game like this does us a lot of good," Tiger coach Tony Hobson said.
Chandler, Bohuslavsky, Edwards and freshmen Paige Lunsford and Alyssa Palmer were among those who stepped up without Brown and Nelson. Chandler was nervous in pregame when she knew she had to take on a bigger role. Chandler finished with seven points, three assists and three steals.
"Once the game got going, it was good," she said.
Several times, her steals led to UCO fouls and Tiger free throws.
"Those are big plays that people don't realize a lot of times," Edwards said. "Yes, shots are big, but those are what win the game."
Hobson was concerned Bohuslavsky would become fatigued by playing more minutes. Bohuslavsky has averaged 19.1 minutes a game and Wednesday was the first start of her career. She played a career-high 32 minutes with four points on 4-of-6 shooting from the foul line, five assists and two turnovers.
"That's a solid performance. She took it to the basket a couple of times and got to the line," Hobson said.
Lunsford played six minutes and hit a key jumper late in the second half. Palmer played five minutes, her most in a conference game. Senior Traci Keyser tallied 15 points, one off her season high, including 5 of 11 from the 3-point line. Edwards led the team with 24 points and 13 rebounds, her first contest with more than 18 points this year.
"We rely on Kate (Lehman) and Kate (Edwards)," Hobson said. "We expect that. A lot of times, it's the other players that step up to kind of push you over the finish line. I was happy."
Central Oklahoma had just one conference win, but that came against Pittsburg State University, a squad that has spent most of the season in the top 25. UCO has lost eight straight, but four of the losses have been by four points or fewer.
The Bronchos finished 8 of 19 from long range and had five players in double figures, including 17 points from senior Savannah Hamilton.
"Everybody on the floor for them can practically shoot a 3 and when they are hitting them like they were tonight, they are a tough matchup for people," Hobson said.
Central's last trey gave the Bronchos a 72-71 lead with 2:34 left, but Edwards converted a 3-point play when she drove in from the left side, scored and made her free throw.
"With some of the girls being hurt and everything, I had to kind of step up a little and everyone else had to, too," Edwards said.
"She just wasn't going to let us lose tonight," Hobson added.
Central Oklahoma quickly took the lead, but Chandler's steal helped turn the game.
After the steal, Morgan grabbed her. Following a brief conference, the officials called an intentional foul.
A 44 percent free throw shooter this season, Chandler attempted and made her first foul shot since Dec. 29. Bohuslavsky (22 free throws all season) and Edwards (61 percent free throw shooting) also made the foul shots late to help FHSU shoot 84 percent from the line -- best in an MIAA game this year.
Fort Hays will play host to Missouri Southern State University on Saturday. Hobson said Brown should be back to full strength for the 2 p.m. start.
"It's been obvious that we have been having trouble with (free throws)," Edwards said.
"... We get kind of freaked out in big games and we said that we've just got to put all emotions aside and be confident."