Tatyana Legette found another way to make sure Carly Heim could share the spotlight on Fort Hays State's senior day.
With Heim sidelined for the rest of the season by a knee injury, Legette donned Heim’s No. 13 jersey in the Tigers’ regular-season finale against Pittsburg State on Saturday.
An inspired Legette turned in one of the best games of her illustrious career, matching her career high with 25 points and adding 10 rebounds and six assists as the Tigers pulled out a hard-earned 67-62 victory at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
“I really just wanted to wear Carly’s jersey because it’s kind of like having her out there with me,” Legette said. “But I knew if I wore it, I would have to play well.”
FHSU coach Tony Hobson said it was a fitting tribute to Heim, a senior point guard who saw her career cut short a month ago by the injury.
“That was pretty cool, I thought,” FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. “She came and asked if she could do that. The only thing was if she could fit into it because it was actually a size smaller than what T usually wears.”
“It was snug around the arms,” Legette said with a laugh. “But I was comfortable, so that’s all that mattered.”
Legette helped kickstart the Tigers (27-1, 18-1 MIAA) to a 23-9 lead by the end of first quarter, scoring nine first-quarter points.
Legette, a self-described emotional person, said she didn’t have an issue getting in the right mindset for the game.
“I know coach was a little worried about doing the (senior recognition ceremony) before the game, but I’ve been thinking about this the whole week, and I knew I had to keep it together,” Legette said. “For the most part, I think I did a good job.”
Legette finished 10 of 14 from the field, 2 of 3 from 3-point range and 3 of 5 from the foul line.
“We needed a game like that from her,” Hobson said. “You saw her play with the type of energy and emotion she always does.”
Pittsburg State, which was looking to avenge a 25-point loss to the Tigers earlier this season, clawed its way back in the second quarter, scoring the last six points before halftime to cut FHSU’s lead to 36-29.
“We did get off to a good start, and after that, I thought (Pitt State) kind of settled in and played better and got better shots,” Hobson said.
Pittsburg State stayed within striking distance throughout the second half, trailing 61-57 after two free throws from Maya Williams with 2:24 left.
FHSU freshman Hailey Walker came up with two big steals in the last two minutes. She swiped the ball away on an inbound pass with 1:51 left, and Kacey Kennett was fouled going for the rebound on Walker's missed layup. Kennett hit two free throws to push the lead back to six.
Walker also came up with a steal with 41 seconds left while the Tigers were protecting a five-point lead. She hit one of two free throws, and Fort Hays later sealed it with two free throws from Whitney Randall to make it an eight-point game with 14 seconds remaining.
“(Walker) came up big,” Hobson said. “Defensively, she really held her own in there.”
“She was ready to go out there,” Legette said of Walker. “It almost looked like it was her senior night.”
Legette was joined in double figures by Lanie Page with 11. Pittsburg State (21-7, 13-6 MIAA) was paced by Williams’ 15 while Sydnee Crain and Athena Alvarado added 12 and 10, respectively.
“We’ll live with the result,” Hobson said. “We had a good first quarter and we kind of held on and got a few stops when we needed to down the stretch.”
The MIAA regular-season champion Tigers will head to next week’s conference tournament in Kansas City, Mo., as the No. 1 seed. The Tigers will play either No. 8-seed Nebraska-Kearney or No. 9 seed Missouri Western at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the quarterfinals at Municipal Auditorium.