KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fort Hays State battled hard all game, but could not overcome offensive struggles in a 59-48 loss to No. 15 ranked Central Missouri in the MIAA Tournament semifinals on Saturday. Playing their 30th game of the season, FHSU moved to 23-7 overall. UCM, the Central Region's top ranked team, improved to 26-4 overall and advanced to the MIAA Tournament Finals.
The Tigers gave a good effort defensively, but could not counter with baskets when getting key stops. The teams battled to a low-scoring 21-17 score at halftime, with the Tigers trailing by four. The Jennies never trailed, with a 2-2 tie early on being the only time the teams were even on the scoreboard.
An 8-0 run by the Jennies to start the second half produced their first double-figure lead of the game, up by 12 with nearly three and a half minutes gone by in the third quarter. They led by double figures the remainder of the third quarter, reaching 16 points twice before a 5-0 run by the Tigers cut the lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter.
The Tiger run reached 7-0 when they hit the first basket of the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to nine, but a pair of buckets by the Jennies extended the lead back to 13. The Tigers made a pair of final pushes at the Jennies inside four minutes, but each time the Jennies had an answer. Madison Mittie hit a 3-point field goal with just over three minutes remaining to cut the lead to seven, but Morgan Fleming answered with a 3-pointer of her own to push the lead back to 10. A Jaden Hobbs 3-point field goal with 1:09 remaining cut the lead to six, but Megan Skaggs answered with a 3-point field goal moments later to put the game out of reach.
Fort Hays State struggled to just 31.6 percent shooting overall and turned the ball over 13 times, but remained in the game by forcing UCM into 20 turnovers. UCM shot better than 45 percent from the field in the first, third and fourth quarters, while FHSU held UCM to just 16.7 percent in the second quarter.
Hobbs was the only Tiger to reach double figures in scoring with 14, while dishing out a team-high four assists. Belle Barbieri was just shy of a double-double with eight points and 12 rebounds.
Morgan Fleming, just like she did in the only regular season meeting with FHSU, led UCM with 20 points. Nija Collier had 15, but FHSU limited MIAA Player of the Year Megan Skaggs to just seven points on the day.
The Tigers now wait and hope the work they have done throughout the season is enough to get into the NCAA Tournament. FHSU entered the weekend No. 6 in the NCAA Region Rankings, but conference tournament winners will receive automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament.
St. Cloud State entered the week No. 10 in the region rankings, but won the NSIC Tournament and essentially replaces one of the top eight teams going into the week. No. 5 ranked Southwestern Oklahoma State and No. 8 ranked Harding each lost in the quarterfinal round of the GAC Tournament. No. 7 ranked Southeastern Oklahoma State plays its GAC Semifinal game on Saturday night, while three teams outside the top 10 of the region rankings remain alive in the GAC Tournament semifinals. Nebraska-Kearney entered the week No. 9 in the region rankings and plays in the other MIAA Tournament semifinal against No. 4 ranked Emporia State.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show is on Sunday night at 9 pm Central time on NCAA.com.