Tiger women secure third regular season MIAA title

FHSU Sports Information
The Fort Hays State women's basketball team gather for a photo after clinching at least a share of the MIAA championship with a win at Missouri Western on Thursday.
Fort Hays State's Whitney Randall dribbles against Missouri Western on Thursday.
Fort Hays State's Madison Mittie looks to pass on Thursday at Missouri Western.
Fort Hays State's Katie Wagner drives against Missouri Western on Thursday.

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. - The fifth-ranked Fort Hays State women's basketball team clinched a share of its third regular season MIAA championship Thursday evening (Feb. 25), fighting off Missouri Western on the road, 77-69.

Fort Hays State has also all but locked up the top overall seed in the MIAA Championship Tournament, presented by Citizens Bank & Trust. Barring any cancellations over the final two games of the regular season, the Tigers would have home-court advantage throughout the tournament. FHSU will host a quarterfinal game on Wednesday (March 3) and would host the semifinals on Saturday (March 6) and the championship on Sunday (March 7) if they were to advance to the weekend. Times are TBA.

Both teams traded punches throughout the first half, combining to shoot 50 percent from the floor. There were eight lead changes and six ties, while neither team led by more than five.

Whitney Randall led all scorers with 17 first-half points, hitting 6-of-11 from the floor including a pair of 3-pointers. All eight Tigers who played in the opening half got on the scoresheet, with Sydney Golladay, Jaden Hobbs and Madison Mittie all adding 3-pointers before the break, helping the Tigers to a slim 39-37 lead.

As they have in games all season, the Tigers took firm control of the game with a dominant 10 minute stretch. This time the run came in the second half, spanning the final four minutes of the third quarter and the first six minutes of the fourth period. FHSU outscored the Griffons 25-8 over that stretch, hitting 8-of-13 from the floor and 7-of-9 from the line while forcing seven turnovers and holding MWSU to just three field goals.

With the Tigers leading by just one, 48-47, Randall and Katie Wagner helped the Tigers push the lead to nine with an 8-0 run. Randall scored six of those points, giving the senior a career-high 27 points before the end of the third quarter. Hobbs capped off the quarter with her second 3-pointer, giving the Tigers a 60-52 lead with 10 minutes to play.

Jessie Sallach took over in the fourth quarter, scoring eight points over a three-minute span to help the Tigers push their lead to 18. Hobbs drained another triple and Olivia Hollenbeck added a bucket to put FHSU in front 73-55 with 4:12 to play.

Missouri Western closed within six with 16 seconds to play, but it was too little, too late for the Griffons.

Randall led all scorers with a career-high 29 points, the most points scored by a Tiger this season. The Alva, Okla. native hit 9-of-16 from the floor and 9-of-12 from the charity stripe while matching her career-high with five assists alongside five rebounds.

Hobbs tallied 11 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals and one block. Sallach finished with 10 points after hitting all three of her field goals.

Hollenbeck added eight points, two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. Katie Wagner contributes seven points, one rebound and one block.

Golladay filled up the stats sheet with six points, three rebounds, three assists, one steal and one block. Madison Mittie led the team while matching her career-high with eight rebounds alongside four points, one assist and one steal. Emma Ruddle chipped in two points, two rebounds and one steal.

Fort Hays State hit at least 40 percent from the floor in all four quarters, finishing the game at 45.6 percent (26-of-57). The Tigers scored an impressive 17 points off 17 Griffon turnovers.

The Griffons finished the game shooting 52.8 percent from the floor (28-of-53), the best shooting percentage for an FHSU opponent this season.

The win was Fort Hays State's first road win over Missouri Western since December 2013. The Tigers have now won 14-straight games, tied for the fifth-longest stretch in team history.

The Tigers will look to clinch the regular season title outright and tie the MIAA record for conference wins in a season on Saturday when they finish the schedule at Northwest Missouri State. First tip is slated for 1:30 p.m. from Maryville, Mo.