Tiger women eye rematch with Pitt

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

Fort Hays State University senior forward Tera Ingalsbe wants to become a teacher after college. Recently, she delivered an analogy to the Tiger underclassmen about the importance of the last five regular season games for FHSU, ranked No. 24 for NCAA Division II. Four are at home.

"I was like, 'Guys, remember sub-state for you in high school?" Ingalsbe said. "It's crunch time, and we have to pull it out. Compete."

On Saturday, FHSU (16-5, 9-5 MIAA) has another crucial home contest against Pittsburg State University, receiving votes nationally at 18-6, 11-3 MIAA. Start time is 2 p.m. at Gross Memorial Coliseum. FHSU is fifth in the conference, but in the mix for an NCAA Division II tournament berth.

"Right now we are about three possessions from being the top team in the region," coach Tony Hobson said.

Senior forward Katelyn Edwards, the team's second-leading scorer and rebounder, is expected to miss her second straight contest with a knee injury.

Edwards was supposed to miss several weeks, but Hobson labeled her "way ahead of schedule." Edwards has more muscle mass than most females, which doctors said has aided in the recovery.

Edwards was expected to participate in some practice activities today, but nothing live. Hobson said it's possible Edwards could play next Wednesday at Washburn University.

FHSU, 11-0 at home this season, hasn't had a perfect home mark since finsihing 22-6 in 1996-97. FHSU is 25-1 at home in the last two years. Hobson believed the home success has come from a variety of factors, including the long trip to Hays for opponents and improved Tiger talent. Ingalsbe said FHSU plays off the "enthusiasm" of the home crowd.

"Sometimes, the crowd, when you are in a little low spot in the game, sometimes being at home and having the home crowd can kind of help you pull out of that a little sooner," Hobson said. "Instead of a three-minute drought at home, it might be a six-minute drought on the road, so I think that has a bearing on everything."

The Tigers are 38-12 the last two seasons, but 0-2 against the Gorillas, with both losses on the road. PSU is the lone MIAA team FHSU hasn't defeated in that span.

On Jan. 25, Fort Hays lost 74-60 at Pittsburg State and finished minus-17 on the glass. Since then, the Tigers are 3-1 with four strong rebounding performances.

"We are playing with more effort and just sustained effort over a long period of time than we have all year," Hobson said.

Five days after the Gorilla loss, the Tigers defeated then-No. 3 Emporia State University 72-57, beat Washburn University and University of Nebraska-Kearney and then lost at Emporia, 80-77, last Saturday. FHSU was plus-17, plus-18, minus-5 and plus-4 on the glass in those contests.

"It seems like a totally different team," Ingalsbe said. "That Pitt loss really just grinded our gears. It turned us all around. It brought us back to reality. Hey, we did have a slump. ... We've got to start grinding and getting more serious and compete more. A lot of the girls are coming into the gym by themselves, they are going to the weight room by themselves, and it's just we are putting our own time in."

Junior Lizzy Jeronimus, a two-time honorable mention All-American, leads the Gorillas at 19.2 points per contest.

FHSU junior Keriann Shaw, who has contained ESU leading scorer Laura Patrick twice in the past two weeks, will likely again guard Jeronimus for most of the game. No one else averages double figures, but Y'Cedria Devers averages four rebounds a game.

"They really rebound well from the guard spot," Hobson said. "The Devers girl, that is kind of her forte, she crashes the boards from the wing, and it's really hard to block off from that amount of distance with a good athlete like that. I think the main thing is just being conscious of where they are going to come from to rebound the ball."

As of Thursday night, Hobson hadn't decided whether he would start Ingalsbe -- who has three double-figure games since moving into the starting lineup four contests ago -- against the smaller Gorillas.

Starting Ingalsbe could keep PSU from heavily focusing on FHSU junior center Kate Lehman, the team leader with 16.7 points and 11 rebounds a game. Last contest, if Shaw and Edwards were both in the game, the Gorillas triple-teamed Lehman.

"That mismatch would go both ways," Hobson said. "I am not sure how they would defend if we had (Tera) at the 4, (power forward). Because they wouldn't be able to sag back in front of Kate Lehman."