Fort Hays State women's basketball takes down Lopers again
In the race for the MIAA women's basketball regular season title, Fort Hays State wasn't counting on any favors from anybody else when it came to knocking Nebraska-Kearney from their spot alone at the top of the conference.
After UNK reeled off straight 12 wins to start the season, the Tigers figured they would have to take matters into their own hands.
"We were looking a couple of weeks ago: Who's going to beat Kearney?" FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "I said, 'You guys, sometimes you have to do the work yourself.' The best chance to beat them is going to be us."
Fort Hays cashed in on their opportunity to get right square in the thick of the MIAA title race, beating UNK for the second time in three days with a 68-60 win on Saturday at Gross Memorial Coliseum.
The Tigers (11-2) and are now in a virtual tie for first place in the MIAA standings with Kearney (12-2) and Central Missouri (12-2).
"Just a great way to get back in it," Hobson said. "It's nice to be up at the top or in that vicinity. Hopefully, we can just keep playing well."
The back-to-back games against the same opponent was a unique experience for both teams. On Thursday in Kearney, FHSU handed the Lopers their first loss, 61-49.
"Thursday we definitely had a lot of scouts. Our coaches did a really good job of helping us prepare," FHSU 6-foot-3 freshman Olivia Hollenbeck said. "Then we came back and had one practice and the coaches just kind of said, 'You guys know what they're going to do, it's up to you guys now.'
"We made a few adjustments but I think we were pretty prepared. I think it was just a matter of going out and doing it the second time."
The Lopers led by as much as 10 (22-12) in the first half but the Tigers crept back within four heading into halftime.
"Luckily our defense kind of held us in there," Hobson said. "I didn't feel like we had much go right the first half, and we're only down four."
Jaden Hobbs hit back-to-back 3s in the third quarter to turn a three-point deficit into a three-point lead at 41-38, and the Tigers never relinquished the lead.
Freshman Katie Wagner, who showed no ill-effects after rolling her ankle early in the game, hit three straight mid-range jumpers to put the Tigers up by 10 with eight minutes left.
"She was posting up their 5 man and just shooting over her," Hobson said.
A 3 from Whitney Randall gave FHSU its biggest lead at 11 with 7:02 left before the Lopers made a final push, using an 8-1 spurt to make it a 59-55 game with 3:16 left on the clock.
Hollenbeck, who was celebrating her 19th birthday, made two of the game's biggest plays in a 19-second span. With the Lopers still down four, she blocked a shot from UNK post player Brooke Carlson with 1:11 left.
"This week at practice our coaches we're telling me (Carlson's) a good player, she's physical, she'll try to go to the right every time," Hollenbeck said. "I was just trying to stay straight up and make a good play there."
On the other end, the Tigers found Hollenbeck in the post for a 3-point play to give FHSU a seven-point cushion with 52 seconds left.
"Those were huge plays," Hobson said of the block and the and-one. "I was happy to see Olivia really come through there at the end for us."
As they did Thursday, the Tigers dialed up the pressure on the Lopers.
"I hesitated on whether we should pressure the whole game, because of the fatigue factor," Hobson said. "If you're going to pressure and you're a step or a half step slow, sometimes you give up some easy baskets. That's why I went to the bench a little bit earlier than normal. While we didn't just take the ball from them, I thought we really took them out of their offensive rhythm."
Hobbs fought through an off shooting night (4 of 17) to lead the Tigers with 17 and was joined in double figures by Randall (16), Hollenbeck (11), Cydney Bergmann (10) and Katie Wagner (10).
Carlson led the Lopers with 16 and Elisa Backes added 14 for UNK.
FHSU's 68 points were the most the Lopers had surrendered on the season
"Just a good effort by everybody," Hobson said.
FORT HAYS STATE 68, NEBRASKA-KEARNEY 60
UNK (12-2) — Backes 5-10 3-4 14, Carlson 8-10 0-0 16, Kirsch 2-4 2-2 6, Law 3-11 2-2 8, Sanger 2-4 0-0 4, Dreckman 0-3 0-0 0, Burns 3-4 0-2 8, Holt 1-2 0-0 2, McCool 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 24-48 9-12 60.
FHSU (11-2) — Hollenbeck 5-7 1-3 11, Golladay 0-2 2-2 2, Hobbs 4-17 7-7 17, Randall 6-11 2-3 16, Bergmann 4-6 2-2 10, Wagner 4-6 2-4 10, Mittie 0-2 0-0 0, Sallach 0-1 2-2 2, Ruddle 0-1 0-0 0, Reither 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-53 18-23 68.
3-point goals — UNK 3-16 (Burns 2-2, Backes 1-3, Kirsch 0-2, Law 0-5, Sanger 0-1, Dreckman 0-3). FHSU 4-13 (Hobbs 2-6, Randall 2-4, Golladay 0-2, Mittie 0-1). Rebounds — UNK 27 (Kirsch 8), FHSU: 28 (Wagner 7). Assists — UNK 15 (Law 7), FHSU 15 (Hobbs 6). Turnovers — UNK 16, FHSU 11. Total fouls — UNK 21, FHSU 15. Fouled out — Bergmann. Attendance — 1,085.