At least for the time being, the No. 5-ranked Fort Hays State women's basketball team will have to make do without the player coach Tony Hobson calls the rock of the Tigers' team.
FHSU senior point guard Carly Heim will miss this week's road games at Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern after suffering a knee injury in last week's 74-64 overtime win at Nebraska-Kearney. As of Tuesday afternoon, Hobson said Heim's long-term status was unclear.
"There's nothing definite yet. She did have a test (on Tuesday). We should find out something (Wednesday), if not before the game on Thursday," Hobson said. "Definitely out this week. We're just hoping for the best, but just making plans and trying to retool a lot of things in our offense and defensively because she's such a big part of our team."
Hobson said junior guard Kacey Kennett will slide over to point guard in Heim's absence with Taylor Rolfs and Hailey Walker also expected to play some at the point.
"We'll just see what works," Hobson said. "There's some things that work better that we run offensively with a true point guard; there's other things that doesn't really matter. The good thing is we have so many kids on our team that are versatile.
"Kacey's such a versatile player. She can play one through four, and it's really valuable to have players like that who are capable of moving around the floor and you really don't lose much."
Kennett said she's comfortable playing point and will do her best to help fill Heim's void.
"I played some point in high school, and this past year or two I've played some point. Definitely not as good as Carly," Kennett said with a smile. "She's little, she can penetrate, she's quick. But hopefully I can get my team some open shots and take over that role."
Kennett said the Tigers (19-1, 10-1 MIAA) will try to use Heim's injury as motivation.
"Hopefully we'll all kind of play with a chip on our shoulder for Carly," Kennett said.
Hobson said Heim's absence will have a ripple effect on the Tigers.
"We have good players that we can put in the starting lineup to replace Carly, but then you lose a really good player coming off the bench," Hobson said. "It just totally changes your rotation, changes people's roles. ... You just have to make the adjustments you think will be most beneficial to your team and go with it."
The MIAA-leading Tigers, who railed from a 20-point third-quarter deficit at UNK, will play Pittsburg State at 5:30 p.m. Thursday in John Lance Arena. Pitt State enters 17-4 overall and 9-3 in conference play.
"This will be one of our toughest games we have left, I think," Hobson said. "... They're a solid team. They're deep and pretty athletic, and like usual, they don't miss very many threes. They're just really good shooters."
Tiger men looking to regroup from UNK loss
The Fort Hays men will look to regain their offensive rhythm for Thursday's 7:30 p.m. game with Pittsburg State after struggling in a 59-56 loss to Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday.
"I think the biggest thing was we couldn't get Brady (Werth) the ball in the post," FHSU coach Mark Johnson said. "It was a physical game. They were able to push Brady off the block so we weren't able to get as much done on the block as we have in the past. When that doesn't happen, I think that affects our perimeter shooters. They don't get quite the same looks compared to when Brady's having a really good night down low."
The Tigers (13-7, 7-4 MIAA) sit in fifth place in the conference standings but are just a game back of Lincoln and Washburn for second place.
"We're right there battling with these teams," Johnson said. "I think Northwest has clearly won the league. But this can go a lot of different ways. We can work our way all the way up to No. 2, and we might have to still win a game to get in the conference tournament. It can go a lot of different ways. We just have to take it game by game."
Junior guard Aaron Nicholson was a bright spot in the Tigers' loss to UNK, scoring 15 points. Nicholson is averaging 10.6 points per game and has had a steady year, Johnson said.
"He's gaining confidence," Johnson said. "Aaron's a guy that's taken a while to believe in himself. I think he's finally getting confidence. He does a good job of shooting the three. He's not the most athletic guy you ever saw but he's sneaky and he goes a really good job of finishing at the rim for his size. We need him to really have a good, strong finish and continue to do what's he's done all year and be a guy that gets double figures most nights."
The Tiger men also are dealing with injury concerns after senior guard Marcus Cooper injured his hand in the Kearney. The full extent of the injury wasn't known as of Tuesday afternoon.
Pittsburg State enters 14-7 overall and 7-5 in league play. The Gorillas are led by Grant Lozoya (24 points per game) and Donovan Franklin (21.7 per game).
"They're two of the more gifted players (in the league)," Johnson said. "They've got great size, 6-3, 6-4 guards that can drive it, shoot it and they're athletic. You got to find a way to limit those two. I think they're going to get their numbers, it's just how many shots are we going to make them take to put up those numbers."