Taking a brief walk after the contest, longtime Fort Hays State University fan Gene Fleharty had to comment.
He had never seen anything like it in 70 years of watching Fort Hays State athletics.
Pretty much everyone involved was in total agreement, including ninth-year Tiger head coach Tony Hobson.
Nevertheless, FHSU women’s basketball fans were treated to an epic moment Wednesday evening at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Storming back from 15 points down in the first half, FHSU closed out the game on a remarkable 65-23 run (19-0 at one point) and sent Emporia State University home with a 90-63 loss.
It was the worst loss by Emporia State since the mid-1990s, and marked the fifth straight win for a Tiger club finding its groove.
“I’m not sure I can explain it,” Hobson said of the run, a streak that at one point was 56-16 early in the fourth quarter. “There was a time in there where if we didn’t do something and didn’t pick up our intensity and start guarding a lot harder, it was going to be the other way.
“Our kids kind of realized that.”
Judging by the final score, it would be hard to figure out that at one point, Emporia State led 40-25. The Hornets hit virtually everything they put up en route to a double-digit lead by the midway point of the second quarter. At that time, the Hornets were shooting better than 75 percent from the floor.
“They hit about every open 3 that they had,” Hobson said. “Part of that was them. Part of that was us.”
At the 4:08 mark of the second quarter, things changed. After a timeout, Tiger freshman Whitney Clampitt hit a jumper to spark the huge run. And she hit a couple more big shots that helped FHSU seize all of what Tiger senior Emma Stroyan labeled the game’s “mojo.”
“(FHSU) snatched all the momentum,” Emporia State coach Jory Collins said.
The Tigers did it in a big way. Working against the Hornets’ zone, Clampitt scored seven points as FHSU closed the half with a 17-0 run. That included a buzzer-beating 3 for the freshmen that gave FHSU a 42-40 lead going to the locker room.
“We came in the locker room and it was crazy,” Stroyan said. “We just carried that into the second half.”
From there, Stroyan and junior Tatyana Legette owned the last two quarters. The duo could seemingly do no wrong en route to scoring 21 points apiece as FHSU put up its most points in MIAA play.
The big run to end the second quarter was key.
“Instead of having some sort of lead going in and feeling good about the first half,” Collins said, “We have a two-point deficit and just couldn’t respond in the second half, obviously.”
The run extended to 19-0 as Tiger junior point guard Carly Heim opened the third-quarter scoring. The rest of the way, it seemed, belonged to Stroyan and Legette. They combined to shoot 17 of 22 from the floor, while Legette was 2-for-2 from 3-point range and 5-for-5 from the foul line.
“We just had a couple kids play out of their minds tonight,” Hobson said. “Emma was just on point, played probably her best game for us in two years. ’T’ was her usual self and Carly managed things.”
And the big shots along the way from Clampitt (10 points) as well as sophomores Taylor Rolfs and Lanie Page just helped solidify the win.
“It was just incredible to be a part of,” Stroyan said. “We had everyone scoring, making defensive stops.”
After the hot start, Emporia State finished the game shooting just 45 percent from the floor, while the Tigers hit 50 percent of their shots. The Hornets now have dropped three of their previous four games. Heim was 5-for-11 and was 6-for-9 from the foul line to score 16 for FHSU. The Tigers now will take on Washburn University at 2 p.m. Saturday at GMC. Washburn (14-6, 6-5) takes on University of Nebraska-Kearney (16-3, 8-3) on Thursday.