Already battle-tested after a pair of solid wins last weekend, the Fort Hays State women's basketball team will open the home portion of its schedule this weekend, entertaining Adams State at 7 p.m. on Friday and Cameron at 5 p.m. Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The No. 7-ranked Tigers finished strong in both games last week in St. Joseph, Mo. They opened with a 59-51 win over Minnesota Duluth before earning a 67-54 victory over Concordia-St. Paul.
"I liked our response," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "I didn't like a lot of our play that got us into those tight situations. I thought we opened up both games where we played real well the first quarter. We built a little bit of a lead and then we kind of gave some of that away in the second and third quarters.
"Then we responded well in the fourth quarters of both games and had strong finishes, especially the second game. I think (rough stretches) are going to happen when you play solid teams early in the year. They were both good tests for us."
Senior forward Belle Barbieri was big on the boards, averaging 15 rebounds in the first two games while scoring 11 points a game.
"Belle is relentless on the glass," Hobson said. "She crashes the boards every possession. It was noticeable when we didn't have her in there — we struggled on bringing some boards down and gave up a couple offensive rebounds, so we have to get better at that. But she did a great job."
Senior Kacey Kennett scored 20 points in the Concordia-St. Paul game, eclipsing the 1,000-point mark for her career in the process. She added five assists and seven steals in the game.
Lanie Page, also a senior, averaged a team-high 13.5 points in the first two games.
"I thought all of our seniors really answered the bell," Hobson said. "Lanie had two solid games. Kacey had a great second game. Taylor (Rolfs) played well both games. Early in the season, you need those seniors to step up and show the way.
"Juniors, Jaden Hobbs and Whitney Randall, they were both really good too. I thought bench play was not quite as solid, but you expect that because you have a lot of your new people and your young kids coming off the bench. I thought Maddie (Mittie) did a good job off the bench. As we go along, I think our bench play will really improve."
Hobson said he was particularly encouraged by what he saw from Kennett and Page. Both played through injuries down the stretch of last season.
"Really with Kacey, three weeks ago I was really concerned with her," Hobson said. "She was struggling to practice two days in a row and had a lot of stiffness, soreness in her back. It seems like the last 10 days or so it's really straightened up. She played back-to-back days and the second day she actually looked as good or better physically. She looks good this week. That's important because she's such a good player and we need her out there.
"And Lanie, she went back-to-back days. She wouldn't have been able to do that the end of last year. She has some pain but she can live with it. She looks good physically. With both (Kennett and Page), that's encouraging. We need them in there. Hopefully we can keep managing their injuries and be able to have them all year."
Adams State enters 0-2 while Cameron is 1-1.
"Both are not big teams, but I know they both press a little bit and they spread you out and try to drive and penetrate," Hobson said. "We don't have a lot of info on them, it's so early in the season. But I expect a good test both games."
Fort Hays has won 15 home openers in a row and have claimed 36 straight non-conference regular-season games.
Both matchups will be the second game of doubleheaders inside Gross Memorial Coliseum. Nebraska-Kearney will play Cameron at 5 p.m. Friday and Adams State at 3 p.m. Saturday.