It might not have seemed like the most polished of performances.
But the Fort Hays State University women’s basketball team still was able to do what it needed to do to end the first semester on a good note.
The Tigers overcame a few struggles Tuesday night but still managed to blow past Midland (Neb.) University, 73-46, at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“It was kind of ugly for awhile,” said guard Carly Heim. “I think we’re all just ready to take a nice break and calm down and take a nice rest before things really kick in. I think after this week, we’ll be good and back on track.”
The Tigers (10-2) had an off-again, on-again performance against the Warriors, building a 19-5 lead after the first quarter.
But Midland (8-7) was able to pull within 35-25 at halftime.
“This is such a tough time of year to play, and I always hesitate to schedule a game after finals are over and everybody is gone,” said FHSU coach Tony Hobson. “They are looking forward to going home for a week or most of the week, and sometimes they don’t zero in on basketball. That’s understandable, but, again, it’s just another lesson on how you have to block some things out and be mentally tough about it. I thought it was a little lackluster. Yeah, it’s a win, but I would have liked to be a little sharper. We didn’t play with a lot of energy, and when you don’t play with energy, nothing really works very well.”
Still, a sub-par performance at times was boosted by Heim early. The Hoxie product scored nine of her game-high 14 points in the first half to keep the Tigers moving offensively.
Then Tatyana Legette and Kacey Kennett carried the load in the third quarter.
Legette sank two free throws to start the quarter, then followed it up with six more points to spur FHSU in an 11-0 run to open the half. That pushed the lead to 46-25 with 5:34 to play in the third quarter.
“We had to make sure we went out there and didn’t take them lightly was the main thing,” said Legette, who finished with 12 points and eight rebounds. “Last year, we were only up by four at halftime. So we had to make sure we went out there and gave it our all. We may have struggled in the beginning because our focus wasn’t there, but we were able to overcome that and do what we do best — which is play basketball.”
Kennett, who finished with 13 points, then scored seven of the team’s final 13 points in the period to give Fort Hays a 59-36 advantage entering the final 10 minutes.
“I thought we came out to start the game well, and I thought we played the first six or seven minutes of the third quarter well,” Hobson said. “We had two pretty good runs on them that allowed us to get away from them. We’ll take it. This is a tough time of year to play, and you have to really bear down and focus.”
The lead reached 27 points three times in the final quarter, including the final margin.
“We’re happy not getting a loss, of course,” Heim said. “But a sign of a good team is never being satisfied. That’s where our coach is at, and a little bit of us. I think we’re just happy to go out of here on a semi good note and get some rest for a week.”
Hobson said his point guard has been tasked with more offensive priority as of late, especially with guard Taylor Rolfs missing with an injury. That had Lindsay Shupe, who tallied 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting, in the starting lineup Tuesday night.
“Carly has started to take charge offensively,” Hobson said. “We’ve kind of encouraged her to be more aggressive and take more shots, and she’s just a tough matchup. And Tatyana should be able to score on just about anybody. We ran a couple isolations for her to start the second half just to get her going. Kacey can score in a variety of ways, so you never know whether she’s going to hit a 3 or use the nice little pull-up. Those three guys on the offensive end need to carry us. Without Taylor not in there, that takes a little bit of our offensive firepower out of the way. We had Shupe in the lineup tonight, and she did a fine job. She was pretty efficient, 10 points on seven shots. Just a different way than Taylor’s coming on the 3-point line.”
Heim has averaged 18 points the last two games for Fort Hays, which ran its win streak to three games after back-to-back MIAA losses on the road in early December.
“We were struggling a little bit with our shots today,” Heim said. “They weren’t falling like they usually do, and of course we were missing Taylor Rolfs from the 3-point line. I kind of just wanted to get a lead so we could have a good Christmas break.”
The Tigers will be off until Dec. 30 when they host Bethany College. FHSU returns to MIAA play Jan. 4 at Central Missouri.
“It is a sigh of relief because no one wants to leave for break on a loss, especially if you have to sit there and stew in it for seven days,” Legette said. “As long as coach is happy, we’re happy we got the win.”