EMPORIA, Kan. — The No. 3/5 Fort Hays State women's basketball team fell victim to another fourth-quarter comeback Saturday (Dec. 7), losing 73-69 at Emporia State. The Tigers (6-2, 0-2 MIAA) carried a 50-49 lead into the final frame and led with less than six minutes to go, but the Lady Hornets (7-2, 2-0 MIAA) held the Tigers scoreless for nearly five minutes to take the lead for good.
Taylor Rolfs fueled a quick start for the Tigers, scoring 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting over the first five minutes. Fort Hays State led by seven at the first media timeout, 16-9, after knocking down 6-of-7 from the floor.
The remainder of FHSU's offense in the first quarter came at the free-throw line. After a jumper from Kacey Kennett gave the Tigers a 16-9 lead with 5:05 to play in the first quarter, the Tigers did not hit another field goal until 99 seconds into the second frame when Rolfs buried a 3-pointer.
Emporia State then held the Tigers scoreless for nearly five minutes, going on a 7-0 run to take a 30-23 lead. A layup from Whitney Randall helped the Tigers break out of the funk with 3:24 to play before halftime. The teams traded buckets until the halftime whistle sounded, with the Lady Hornets taking a 38-32 lead into the locker room.
Rolfs opened the third quarter with another 3-pointer, sparking a 13-2 run to help the Tigers go back in front by five, 45-40. Kennett added a layup off a pass from Jaden Hobbs before Hobbs took over, scoring eight-straight points to push the Tigers out in front.
Emporia State closed within one by the end of the third quarter, 50-49, before regaining the lead on a 3-pointer on the first possession of the fourth quarter. Kennett answered with a triple of her own on the other end. The teams traded the lead three more times in the game, with the Tigers taking a 57-55 lead with 6:11 on the clock following a layup from Belle Barbieri.
The Tigers went on another extended scoring drought after Barbieri's layup, missing their next seven shots and going scoreless for nearly five minutes. The Lady Hornets took advantage, scoring nine consecutive points to turn a 58-57 deficit into a 66-58 lead.
Rolfs scored 10 more points in the final 22 seconds, including a pair of 3-pointers to give her a career-high six on the day, but it was too little, too late for the Tigers.
The Claflin, Kan. senior led all scorers with a career-best 28 points after knocking down 11-of-19 from the floor. Rolfs' 28 points are the most for a Tiger in nearly five years (Kate Lehman, 31 vs MSSU, 1/3/15).
Hobbs dished out a career-high nine assists, the most for a Tiger since January 2016 (Beth Bohuslavsky, 9 at UNK, 1/30/16). The junior added 14 points, two rebounds and a pair of 3-pointers.
Kennett added 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, with Randall chipping in seven points and four rebounds. Barbieri totaled three points, eight rebounds and three steals.
The Tigers outshot Emporia State for the day, 44.4 percent (24-of-54) to 40.4 percent (23-of-57). The Lady Hornets took advantage at the charity stripe, knocking down 19-of-24 (79.2 percent). Fort Hays State took care of the ball against the national leader in steals, turning the ball over just 13 times.
Fort Hays State returns home to take on Bethany College on Wednesday (Dec. 11). First tip is set for 6 p.m. inside Gross Memorial Coliseum.