Tiger women fall at home
By CONOR NICHOLL
The Fort Hays State University women's basketball team led by one and had the ball with a minute left Saturday. The Tigers had back-to-back possessions where they had a poor shot. Senior forward Tera Ingalsbe, guarded by several Pittsburg State University players in the lane, had her hook shot blocked. Then, senior Katelyn Edwards missed a defended layup.
"Our last two possessions were awful," Tiger coach Tony Hobson said.
PSU followed a different approach: Get the ball to junior Lizzy Jeronimus, a two-time honorable mention All-American selection and NCAA Division II's leader in free throws attempted. Jeronimus had four points in the final 45 seconds and FHSU lost 71-67 at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
"We can X and O all we want, but it's all about execution and just players making plays," Pittsburg State coach Lane Lord said. "We had our player make a couple more than theirs. That's the only reason why we won."
Fort Hays, ranked No. 24 nationally, suffered its first loss at home and dropped to 16-6, 9-6 MIAA with four regular season contests left. Pittsburg State, receiving votes nationally, won its eighth in a row and bumped to 19-6, 12-3 MIAA. FHSU has lost two straight, both in the final seconds.
FHSU, fifth in the conference, is 1-5 against the conference's top four squads.
"Things could have went a lot differently," said Tiger sophomore guard Chelsea Mason, who tallied a game-high 20 points. "But we should never have let it come down to the last two possessions. We are a great team. We could have competed much better."
Fort Hays lost the season series to the Gorillas and dropped to 0-3 the last two years against PSU, the only MIAA team the Tigers haven't beaten in that span.
"The thing that Pitt State does so good is they all play to their strengths, and they don't try to do stuff that they can't do," Hobson said. "We have still got some kids that don't do that.
"They don't play to their strengths," he added. "They don't know when to and when not to. I think that's one thing - they all really know their roles. They know where the ball needs to be. They don't (mess) things up. They are very efficient offensively."
Edwards suffered a knee injury Feb. 5 at University of Nebraska-Kearney and was expected to miss a couple of weeks. Instead, she missed just one contest, practiced Friday and didn't have any pain. Edwards didn't start Saturday, but wore a brace, played 16 minutes and finished with eight points and two rebounds.
"It hasn't hurt much at all since the beginning," she said. "It was unstable. As soon as I put the brace on it, I wasn't scared of doing anything to it at all."
FHSU trailed 38-31 at halftime and never led from the 8:40 mark of the first half until it took a 66-65 lead with 1:39 left on two free throws from junior Keriann Shaw.
Jeronimus finished with a team-high 17 points, but Shaw held her in check most of the game. Plus, PSU had trouble shooting over Tiger junior center Kate Lehman, who blocked six shots. Jeronimus had four fouls, but played nearly all of the final 4:31.
"We had to take the chance," Lord said. "She is a really smart player, and we needed her for offense if we were going to win the game."
After Shaw's free throws, FHSU forced a missed trey. Then, early in the shot clock, Ingalsbe missed her hook shot from the lane. Hobson said the Tigers didn't execute the play correctly and wanted to get the ball to Lehman, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"That's just not what we wanted," Hobson said.
On the next possession, Jeronimus drove down the left lane and lofted a layup that banked off the left side of the backboard.
"She really got off the floor, and she is a player," Lord said. "I don't how she got it over Lehman's hands, but she did and that was huge for us."
FHSU had a chance to take the lead, but Edwards' layup never caught rim with 34 seconds left.
"That's the difference between winning close games and losing them is they executed down the stretch," Hobson said. "The ball was where it needed to be. It was in Jeronimus' hands. She is going to get a shot or get free throws. We didn't do that. That's the difference."
Gorilla junior guard Brigit Hesser and Jeronimus made two free throws for the final margin. FHSU will travel to Washburn University on Wednesday for a 5:30 p.m. start.
"She is our playmaker," Lord said of Jeronimus. "She makes everything happen for us, and she can make free throws. We want her to have the ball every possession down the stretch."