Another big win for Tiger women
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University never led by more than 10 points against Washburn University, but always led from the 8 minute, 20 second mark of the first half until 12:31 remained.
Then Washburn junior Taylor Ignoto made a 3-pointer that tied the game at 43. However, FHSU quickly retook the lead and completed a historic three-day stretch with a 69-62 victory against the rival Ichabods on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"When they came back and tied it up there in the second half, I think maybe some teams past would have panicked a little bit and that might have been the end of the road," Tiger coach Tony Hobson said. "But this group is totally different. They are playing with a lot of confidence right now and they just dug in."
On Thursday, Fort Hays defeated No. 3 Emporia State University 72-57 for the first win against a top-5 NCAA Division II squad in school history. Then the Tigers ended a four-game losing streak against Washburn. It marked the first time since 1994-95 FHSU defeated Emporia State and Washburn in the same season.
Outside the locker room, Hobson smiled, walked over and gave senior Katelyn Edwards a hug. Edwards couldn't recall a time she'd seen Hobson "this upbeat" in a postgame.
"This has to be, if not the biggest, then one of the biggest weekends or weeks of basketball for the women's basketball program to beat two traditional powers in Emporia State and Washburn back-to-back is a real testament to our kids," Hobson said. "They have just refocused and are playing real well."
Fort Hays, receiving votes in the national poll, entered Thursday on a two-game conference losing streak, but improved to 15-4 overall, 8-4 MIAA.
"It's just been amazing for us," Edwards said. "It's just been so much fun."
Washburn dropped to 13-6, 8-4 MIAA. FHSU, 11-0 at home, outrebounded the Ichabods 47-29. On Thursday, the Tigers held a 59-42 edge on the glass against ESU.
"This group is really determined and they understand that they probably gave away a couple on the road that we just as well could have won with a little better effort," Hobson said. "I think they have just made up their mind that they are not going to ever lose another game because of effort. As long as you have that, then that will keep you in the games."
Junior center Kate Lehman played just 17 minutes, tied for a season-low, because of foul trouble, and finished with a team-high 14 points. She played just five minutes in the first half. Edwards collected eight points and 14 rebounds, and sometimes had to play the center position, a rarity.
Senior Tera Ingalsbe, in her second straight start, tallied 10 points, including a pair of 3s, in a career-high 29 minutes.
Freshman point guard Nikola Kacperska, also in her second start, finished with 11 points.
"It was great," Lehman said. "I think a lot of it has to do with us starting Tera the last two games. We've got used to playing with that starting lineup.
"They don't really need me whenever they play like that," Lehman said with a smile. "When Tera is hitting her 3s and when Kate can drive in and score, and we're hitting everything, it's just good all the way around."
Washburn never led after taking a 12-10 lead, and FHSU held a 33-26 edge at intermission. Ignoto, who paced Washburn with 14 points, tied the game midway through the second half. FHSU quickly went on a 5-0 run with an Ingalsbe trey and an offensive rebound putback from junior Keriann Shaw.
"We just got the point where we needed to do a couple of things that a veteran team, a grinding team will do," Washburn coach Ron McHenry said of his squad with just one senior. "We didn't do it. They did a nice job of getting the boards, which is part of their game. We stood ahead and watched."
Fort Hays outrebounded Washburn 19-5 on the offensive glass.
With the shot clock winding down, Kacperska made a trey that gave FHSU a 53-45 lead with 9:27 remaining.
"There is just a want to," Edwards said. "It's something that you really can't put into words. The past few years, we have had some really great teams, too, and this year, there is that feeling - everyone is just kind of digging in, and you can tell that we are not going to lose."