The substitutes for the Fort Hays State women's basketball team certainly know and embrace their roles, but they’re also not your typical role players.
Instead of being called upon simply for help in other areas like defense or rebounding, the players off the bench can flat out score for the Tigers and are counted on to do so.
The instant offense from the reserves was again on display on Thursday against Northeastern State as the unbeaten and No. 4-ranked Tigers overwhelmed the RiverHawks with their balance and depth, rolling to an 88-50 win at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
A decent start for Northeastern State was erased once FHSU’s Whitney Randall entered the game. The sophomore forward scored 12 points in a 3:20 stretch for the Tigers to help them build a 13-point lead by the end of first quarter.
Randall set her career high and tied Tatyana Legette for game-high honors with 17 points. Kacey Kennett added 15 points and Taylor Rolfs chipped in 14 off the bench as FHSU moved to 14-0 and 5-0 in MIAA play.
“A lot of times your subs come into play a little role where they can guard and rebound and you just try to maintain,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. “But the kids we bring in are really good offensive players. They would be starting for a lot of teams.
“I think we do (wear teams down) — maybe just a little bit mentally — where they say, ‘Oh, we got to guard her, too?’ It feels sometimes like we’re kind of piling on, but it’s good that we don’t have to run any different sets with our bench because they’re good enough that we can do the same things and make them score.”
Led by the 31 combined points from Randall and Rolfs, FHSU's bench totaled 42 points and helped fuel the rout.
“I think the bench always plays a big role,” Kennett said. “Anyone that comes off the bench, they’re playmakers. Just to get other people in the game and see them start making shots, or driving or playing good D, that really kicked up the energy.”
Northeastern State (3-11, 0-5 MIAA) led 9-5 early before Fort Hays closed the quarter on a 21-4 run.
“I think it just took a while for us to settle in,” Hobson said. “That first four or five minutes were shaky. … After the first media timeout, we probably had the best four minutes of the game and really executed well.”
FHSU went into the break with a 42-28 advantage after Lanie Page closed the half by hitting a difficult baseline jumper. The Tigers then put the RiverHawks away with a 26-5 third quarter and led by as much 45 in the fourth.
NSU went 18 of 57 from the field for for 31.6 percent while FHSU shot 50 percent from the floor, making 31 of 62 attempts.
“We started playing a lot better D,” Kennett said. “The first half we didn’t play our best D. But definitely in the third quarter we kind of turned it up and got some stops and that always helps on the offensive end, too.”
Hobson was honored before the game after earning his program-record 218th win at FHSU with Saturday’s 92-67 victory at Southwest Baptist. Former FHSU coach Helen Miles, the previous record holder for wins, was also recognized pre-game. Miles had 217 victories from 1971-86 with the Tigers.
Fort Hays will be back at home Saturday for a 2 p.m. game against Central Oklahoma (11-4, 2-2 MIAA).