Tiger women look to lock up MIAA title at Missouri Western

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Sydney Golladay, left, Katie Wagner, middle, and Madison Mittie celebrate the Fort Hays State women's basketball team's win against Central Missouri last Saturday.

After a big win against Central Missouri last Saturday put the Fort Hays State women on the cusp of an MIAA championship, the Tigers will now look to seal the deal at Missouri Western. 

The No. 5-ranked Tigers (18-2) can lock up at least a share of the conference title with a win in Thursday's 5:30 p.m. game with the Griffons in St. Joseph, Mo. FHSU will then close out the regular season at Northwest Missouri at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Maryville, Mo. 

The Tigers are one game ahead of Nebraska-Kearney and Central Missouri, both 17-3, atop the standings. 

"It's difficult to get in this position, because it's a year-long process," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "But probably the hardest thing about winning the league is just finishing it off and not losing your focus and concentration. You have it right in front of you, you just have to continue doing what you've been doing. You can't let off and you can't lose your focus."

Hobson noted that both the Tigers' opponents this week are still motivated and trying to fight their way into the conference tournament. 

"They're playing for something," Hobson said of the Griffons and Bearcats. "They haven't packed it in. Missouri Western's playing better than they have all year. They're a dangerous team. 

"We just have to really zero in and finish what we've started." 

Missouri Western posed some problems for the Tigers in the first meeting back on Feb. 8 in Hays. The Griffons played FHSU tight most of the way but the Tigers held on for a 58-49 win. 

Heading into Wednesday's game against Central Oklahoma, the Griffons were sitting 6-13. They had a three-game winning streak before losing back-to-back games versus Washburn and Emporia State. 

The Griffons have nine first-year players and just six that played at Western before this season. 

"They're just an interesting team," Hobson said. "They're getting better. They're pretty young, and even the ones that aren't young haven't played a lot together. Defensively, they've kind of gelled. And I've always said, throughout the season, a team has a lot more of an opportunity to get better defensively, usually, than offensively. Their defense has just come along and gotten tougher and tougher as the season's went along.

"They're still excited about playing the season. A lot of times you get teams that are looking forward to the season being over; that's what I wish they were, but they're not."