Every Fort Hays State Tiger that played significant minutes seemingly had their moment in Saturday’s top-25 matchup with Emporia State.
And the FHSU women needed all the inspired play they could get against a fired up and talented ESU squad.
The Hornets and Tigers traded blows for most of the way until Fort Hays State broke away in the final four minutes, riding a late 13-0 run to an 84-74 win at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“It’s a good thing we played well because they were loaded for bear,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said of the Hornets. “I thought they had a great effort too. If we hadn’t been ready to play, they would have really got us.”
Emporia State led 72-71 with four minutes left before the Tigers’ big run started with two free throws from Tatyana Legette with 3:44 left.
Lanie Page had a key stretch to help FHSU (8-0, 2-0 MIAA) gain some separation. The Wamego product came up with a steal at the 3:33 mark, made one of two free throws six seconds later, and then made back-to-back jumpers to extend the lead to six with 2:03 left.
The lead grew to 12 after a layup from Taylor Rolfs with 47 seconds before ESU finally ended the 13-0 run with a harmless layup with less than a second left.
“I think we really came together as a team,” FHSU senior point guard Carly Heim said. “Several people off the bench stepped up to the plate and did really well. We finished really well.”
Heim scored a season-high 19 points to lead several big outing for Fort Hays. Legette had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds while Whitney Randall had 12 points off the bench, and Belle Barbieri also secured a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
“I thought Belle had a great game,” Hobson said. “She had a little spurt where she was all over the place with offensive rebounds. (Legette) kind of got in foul trouble and you think she’s really not in the flow of the game, and she ends up with a double-double.
“Carly was really good early, had three threes. She was steady all game. You had Randall step up, you had Lanie have her moments. Really you can just go down the lineup. Everybody played their role. You never know who’s going to get open shots, so you when you have everybody that can come and hit them at times, it helps.”
ESU's Tyra Jones and Jessica Wayne gave the Tigers all they could handle, scoring 20 points each for ESU, which fell to 7-2 and 1-1 in the MIAA.
“We were in the game obviously with four minutes to go and we just had a couple careless turnovers that resulted in some points for Hays,” ESU first-year coach Toby Wynn said. “They got a little bit of separation and we kind of pressed on offense a little after that. When you don’t make baskets you kind of lose your energy on defense a little bit.”
The Hornets came out on fire, hitting nine 3-pointers in the first half to help propel them to a 44-42 halftime lead.
“I thought our players came out great," Wynn said. "They came out ready to play. We knew going in it was going to be a big game. They have a great team. We feel like we have a great team as well. I thought it was a well-played college basketball game.”
Emporia State hit just one 3-pointer after halftime, going 1 of 8.
“Our transition defense first half was terrible,” Hobson said. “They were getting most of their open threes (in transition) — even after we scored, just pushing the ball up and we weren’t getting back as quickly as we could... We tried to correct that at half. I think we did.”
Fort Hays went 31 of 68 from the field while ESU was 27 of 60. The Tigers outrebounded ESU 46-29.
Heim said the Tigers fed off the atmosphere at Gross Coliseum, with 2,617 in attendance.
“The crowd really helps us a lot and I think it helped us finish the game,” Heim said.