Tiger women shut down Lions to keep MIAA Tourney in Hays

Rick Peterson Jr.
Hays Daily News
Fort Hays State's Whitney Randall shoots a jumper over Missouri Southern on Wednesday at Gross Memorial Coliseum. Randall went over 1,000 points for her career in the win.
Fort Hays State's Olivia Hollenbeck looks to score inside against Missouri Southern's Madi Stokes on Wednesday in Gross Memorial Coliseum.
Fort Hays State's Emma Ruddle, left, and Olivia Hollenbeck, far right, pressure Missouri Southern's Amaya Jones during Wednesday's MIAA Tournament quarterfinal at Gross Memorial Coliseum.

The Fort Hays State women never let Missouri Southern entertain ideas of an upset in Wednesday's MIAA Tournament quarterfinal at Gross Memorial Coliseum. 

The No. 5-ranked Tigers locked down the Lions from the get-go, holding Southern to just 28% from the field in a 71-44 win. 

As the top overall seed, Fort Hays State will now host the semifinal and championship rounds of the conference tournament. The Tigers will face Emporia State at 2 p.m. in the semis Saturday. 

Fort Hays (21-2), winners of 16 straight, allowed Southern just two field goals in the first quarter while building a 22-7 lead. The Tigers led 37-17 at the break after the Lions shot it miserably in the first half, connecting on just 5 of 25 attempts from the field. 

"I thought offensively, we were OK; we weren't great," FHSU coach Tony Hobson said. "But when you can just not let them score and make it so difficult ... first and foremost they were getting one shot and we did a really good job on the defensive boards of limiting them to the one. 

"We did a great job (defensively). We contested their threes and made it a little more difficult to shoot those (Southern went 3 of 21 from three)."

Southern compounded their shooting woes by turning it over 15 times in the first half alone. The Lions finished with 22 turnovers, and the Tigers often capitalized on the other end with 28 points off turnovers. 

"When you can turn them over out around the top of the key or higher, and if we get it in the right hands, we usually get a pretty good shot out of it," Hobson said. "We did a good job of converting those tonight."

Tiger freshman Olivia Hollenbeck went for a career-high 20 points, going 7 of 13 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the foul line. 

Entering the game just four points from 1,000 career points, senior forward Whitney Randall got the milestone early. She hit a 3-pointer 46 seconds into the game and followed it up with a fastbreak layup. 

Randall put up 16 points and grabbed six rebounds, while Katie Wagner added 11 points. 

Madison Mittie, who has entered the starting lineup after Cydney Bergmann's season-ending knee injury last month, scored 10 points, dished out 4 assists and grabbed 6 rebounds. The Tigers also played their first game with starting freshman guard Sydney Golladay, who suffered a knee injury in the regular-season finale against Northwest Missouri. 

"(Mittie) had as good of game as she's had, and played a bunch of minutes (33). That's what we're going to need," Hobson said. "I mean, we lost two kids out of our lineup that played 55 minutes. We're going to have some kids, who if we're going to go very far at all, they're going to have to really step up, and tonight we had that happen."

Jaden Hobbs, a first-team All-MIAA pick along with Randall, played distributor on Wednesday, dishing out seven assists. 

"A couple of those, I didn't see what she was looking at, but the ball got there and the person's under the basket for a layup," Hobson said. "Just really good looks. She has great vision."

Hobson said the Tigers did a good job of matching the Lions' physicality. 

"We didn't back down from them at all," Hobson said. "I thought Olivia really rose to the challenge playing against a good post player (Madi Stokes). She's just getting better and better. She drew seven fouls, which is a good stat to look at.

"... Just a good solid game by a lot of people."

Emporia State (17-5) survived a scare against Central Oklahoma on Wednesday, outlasting UCO 82-80 at White Auditorium in Emporia. 

The Hornets handed the Tigers the first of their two losses of the season, edging FHSU 62-61 on Jan. 2 in Hays. 

"I think our kids, if we had our choice, we want to play Emporia," Hobson said. "I think they're looking forward to that."

The Tigers are ranked No. 1 in the Central Region while the Hornets will be fighting for a spot in the regional, entering Saturday ranked No. 7. The top six teams will make next week's regional tournament hosted by Central Missouri. 

"They're going to spread us out and go five out," Hobson said of the Hornets. "We're going to have to figure something out to have one of our bigs in, because they will go five out and they will all shoot threes. If we let them, they'll take thirty, thirty-five threes, that's kind of their M.O. right now."

In the other semifinal at Gross Memorial Coliseum, Nebraska-Kearney will play Washburn at approximately 4 p.m. Saturday following the Fort Hays-Emporia game. Washburn knocked off second-seeded Central Missouri 63-55 on Wednesday while Nebraska-Kearney beat Pittsburg State 66-50. 

The winners of the semifinal matchups will play in the tournament final at 2 p.m. Sunday at GMC. 

Fort Hays has now reached the semifinals of the MIAA Tournament eight of the last nine seasons.