Tiger women on to MIAA title game after comeback win over Emporia State

FHSU Sports Information
FHSU's Jaden Hobbs shoots a 3-pointer during the Tigers' MIAA Tournament semifinal win against Emporia State on Saturday.

The No. 5 Fort Hays State women's basketball team will play in its fourth MIAA title game after a 77-72 semifinal win over Emporia State Saturday afternoon. The Tigers (22-2, 20-2 MIAA) will host No. 14 Nebraska-Kearney in the championship game of the 2021 MIAA Championship Tournament, presented by Citizens Bank & Trust Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m. inside Gross Memorial Coliseum.

After the Tigers, the top seed in the tournament, led by as many as eight in the first half, fourth-seeded Emporia State (18-6, 17-5 MIAA) stormed in front with a 16-0 third-quarter run to take an eight-point lead, 44-36. Jaden Hobbs helped the Tigers put an end to the run after a timeout, scoring eight points in 80 seconds to cut within two. The senior hit a step-back jumper after an ESU turnover before burying a pair of 3-pointers in less than 30 seconds. Hobbs later hit her third triple of the third quarter in the final minute before Lauryn Reither drilled a 3-pointer in the waning seconds, tying the score at 52-52 and electrifying the crowd of 1,250 inside the Coliseum.

The teams traded punches to start the fourth quarter, with Emporia State opening the frame with a 3-pointer before Reither answered with a long-range make of her own. The Tigers regained the lead after an offensive foul on a layup from Katie Wagner before ESU hit 3-pointers on its next two possessions.

Madison Mittie responded with her fourth 3-pointer of the game, but the Lady Hornets fought right back with another triple to go back up by four, 64-60. Reither and Emma Ruddle both knocked down a pair of free throws to later tie the score at 66-66 before Whitney Randall gave the Tigers the lead for good with a layup off a perfect pass from Hobbs.

After 3-pointers helped the Tigers regain the lead, defense and free throws helped Fort Hays State secure the win down the stretch. Fort Hays State forced four turnovers over the last four minutes and hit 7-of-10 from the line, including a perfect 4-for-4 from Hobbs in the final five seconds that sealed the victory.

After Randall's go-ahead layup, the Tigers got the ball back on a traveling violation. Olivia Hollenbeck made it a 3-point game with a free throw before ESU closed within one with 3:02 to play on a layup. Wagner fought through contact to push the lead back to three with a layup on the next possession before the defense forced a miss on the other end.

Randall made it a two-possession game with a free throw after drawing a foul on an offensive rebound. Reither ended the next Lady Hornet possession with a steal after an errant ESU pass. The Tigers failed to score but immediately regained possession after forcing a 5-second violation on the ensuing ESU inbounds pass. The Tigers ran the clock down under 30 seconds but could not extend their lead before the Lady Hornets closed within two on a layup.

Mittie pushed the lead back to three with a free throw with 11 seconds to go before Emporia State called a timeout to advance the ball up the floor. But the Lady Hornets once again failed to get a pass inbounds, handing the ball back to FHSU with another 5-second violation. Hobbs ensured the victory with four free throws in the final five seconds.

Mittie opened the game with a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, helping the Tigers lead by as many as seven midway through the opening period. Fort Hays State pushed its lead to eight late in the second quarter on a traditional 3-point play from Wagner before Emporia State closed the half with a 3-pointer, making the score at the break 31-26 in favor of the Tigers.

Hobbs finished the game with a game-high 18 points, including 15 in the final 14 minutes. The senior added eight assists, four rebounds and one steal. Mittie and Wagner scored 13 points each, with Mittie poking away a pair of steals. Hollenbeck scored 12 points and added four rebounds, two assists, two blocks and one steal.

The Tigers hit 39.7 percent from the floor (25-of-63), including a 42.3 percent effort from behind the 3-point line (11-of-26). Fort Hays State outscored the Lady Hornets by eight at the free-throw line, hitting 16-of-19 (84.2 percent) while ESU was a perfect 8-for-8.

Fort Hays State turned 17 ESU turnovers into 15 points while outscoring the Lady Hornets in the paint, 26-24.

Notes:

- The win was FHSU's 17th-straight win, tied for the third longest winning streak in program history.

- Fort Hays State is now 4-4 in the semifinal round of the MIAA Championship Tournament.

- The Tigers are 5-0 in MIAA tournament games played in Hays.

- FHSU is 10-1 in home conference tournament games during the DII era.

- Fort Hays State is 7-1 as the top overall seed in the tournament.

- The Tigers are now 2-3 against ESU in the tournament, with wins in each of the last two meetings.

- Madison Mittie has scored in double figures in all three MIAA tournament home games the Tigers have played over the last five years.

- Saturday's game was head coach Tony Hobson's 200th home game as a Tiger. FHSU is 174-26 at home under Hobson over the last 13 years (.865).