Tiger women up to No. 23 nationally
By CONOR NICHOLL
Fort Hays State University sophomore guard Chelsea Mason and junior center Kate Lehman each delivered a rare feat or earned an award in the last week.
Mason collected MIAA Player of the Week honors after she finished with back-to-back 25-point outings in home wins against Lindenwood (Mo.) University and Lincoln (Mo.) University.
Lehman earned her first career triple-double with 13 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks last Thursday against Lindenwood.
Lehman is the sixth woman in NCAA Division II to record a triple-double this season, according to NCAA statistician Sean Straziscar.
"My game plan was to take it right at her, and she did a nice job of altering shots and not fouling and she is a great player, and she is all-conference for a reason," Lindenwood women's coach Tony Francis said. "You tip your hat to her."
However, in addition to Mason, Lehman and perpetual solid play from senior Katelyn Edwards, FHSU has enjoyed a strong stretch from its bench, especially sophomore forward Paige Lunsford, a Hays High School graduate.
The mix has helped FHSU tally more than 90 points in three consecutive wins, the first time the Tigers have achieved the feat in the MIAA era.
"I feel like when we come off the bench, we know what we've got to do, and we've got to keep up the intensity that the five starters have," freshman Jill Faxon said. "I feel that we do that pretty good and show that we can play just as hard as them."
FHSU, now ranked No. 23 nationally, stands at 11-2, 5-2 entering a two-game road trip this Thursday and Saturday at University of Central Oklahoma (9-5, 4-3 MIAA) and Northeastern State University (6-8, 3-4).
Start time is 5:30 p.m. on Thursday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Senior Jill Bryan leads the Tigers with 14.5 points per contest, while junior Fontana Tate has collected 12 points a night.
"We need 10 girls to be deep and to be a good team, and it helps when they practice against the starting five all year," said Lehman, the team leader with 15.4 points, 11.9 rebounds and 76 blocks. "You are going to be good practicing against us."
Lunsford has been a solid backup to Edwards at the 4 position, or power forward.
"She rebounds the ball well," Hobson said.
"She has gotten so that she can survive defensively, because she is so smart. She just gives us something at the 4 spot, and we can move Kate over to the 3 and it takes away some of the double teams off of Kate Lehman, because she will shoot it from out there."
A first team all-state player with the Indians, Lunsford averaged 1.4 points and 1.2 rebounds in 20 games last season.
This year, she is up to 3.1 points and 3.2 rebounds, has played in all 13 games and averages 11.3 minutes a contest.
Lunsford has been the Tigers' first person off the bench in a couple games.
"I decided a couple games ago that I didn't think Paige was getting enough time," coach Tony Hobson said. "We are going to find time for her, because I think that she can contribute a lot to our team. Not that she hasn't, but she just has never got in there to play for extended minutes. I think the more time that you get to do that, I think that she is going to play better and better."
Mason averages 15.3 points per contest, seventh in the conference and one spot behind Lehman.
FHSU is the lone team with two players in the top seven in scoring. Mason stands sixth in the league with 26 made 3s and seventh in shooting at 38.6 percent.
In the last three games, the Tigers have shot 50, 50 and 52.4 percent from beyond the arc, outstanding numbers that supplement the inside play of Lehman and Edwards.
"If we are going to do that, we are going to be hard to beat, because our inside game -- It's kind of like your ground game in football," Hobson said.
"It's there -- it's there every game. Outside shooting, it comes and goes a little more, so if we can shoot like that, we are going to be hard to beat."