Between a strong finish to last season and an even better start to the current season, 2018 has been a pretty good year for the Fort Hays State women’s basketball team.
But there’s reason to believe 2019 could be even better.
The Tigers rode a late-season surge into the second round of the NCAA Tournament in the 2017-18 season, winning 14 of their last 17 games to finish the season 26-7.
“We played our best basketball at the end of the year and I guess that’s what you always try for,” Fort Hays State coach Tony Hobson said. “I think the main thing is just you have to have quality kids that stay engaged and stay hungry and don’t start looking at what you’re going to do over spring break and just want to win and want to compete and keep going as long as they can. I think if you have kids like that, it makes it a lot easier.”
The success of the Tiger women's basketball program is the No. 2 story on The Hays Daily News sports year in review.
Fort Hays gave NCAA Division II champion Central Missouri its toughest game of the tournament last year, dropping a hard-fought 66-59 decision to the Jennies.
“I thought we gave them a good shot,” Hobson said in the postgame press conference. “We played what I thought was a good ball game, especially defensively. We were strong and basically played toe-to-toe with them. They just hit a couple key shots down the stretch. We just needed them to miss a couple to really stay in there.
“I was really proud of the way our kids played.”
With most of their key players back for the 2018-19 season, the Tigers have been every bit as good as anticipated.
Fort Hays has already matched its best start in program history at 10-0, climbing to No. 6 in the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association poll.
The Tigers lost just one senior off last year’s team, forward Emma Stroyan, and returned every other key piece from last year including All-MIAA picks Tatyana Legette, Carly Heim, Kacey Kennett and Lanie Page.
“One thing we have on this team is a huge winner factor,” Hobson said after the season-ending loss to Central Missouri last season. “We got winners. They’re winners on the floor. They take care of their business off the floor. That’s important.”
The Tigers have relied on a balanced scoring attack this season. Page leads FHSU with 12.5 points a game while Legette and Kennett are adding 12.3 and 11.6 per game.
The marquee win of the season so far was an 84-74 win over No. 24 Emporia State on Dec. 8. FHSU also picked up a 62-53 win over Nebraska-Kearney.
Led by senior Hadley Gillum, the Tiger men also saved their best for the end of the season, ultimately finishing last season 19-12. The highlight of the season was an 86-85 overtime victory over Missouri Southern in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.
The Tiger men are 7-3 so far this year with a 2-0 mark in MIAA play.
Both Tiger teams will return to action on Sunday in a doubleheader at Gross Memorial Coliseum. The Tiger women will play Bethany College st 2 p.m. followed by the FHSU men’s game against McPherson College at 4 p.m.