Tigers grind out win over St. Cloud in home opener

By Hailey Chapman
Hays Daily News

The Fort Hays Women's Basketball team came out victorious in their season home opener against St. Cloud Friday night. The Tigers outscored the Huskies 58-51 in an action packed fourth quarter. 

The Tigers trailed for the first time this season after the Huskies made the game’s first basket. At the end of the first quarter the Tigers were behind 14-10. In the second quarter the Tigers outshot the Huskies 14-6 to regain the lead 24-20 at halftime. 

Katie Wagner attempts a layup in Friday night's contest against St. Cloud’s 6’2” forward Nikki Kilboten. Kilboten proved to be an obstacle for Tigers who eventually overcame the challenge in a 58-51 win.

The third quarter showed a lot more action as both teams shooting percentages increased. Fort Hays shot 40% while the Huskies sat at 62.5%. Heading into the final quarter of play, the score was tied up at 42-42. 

In the final quarter, the Tigers and Huskies seemed to be in a shootout until a Megan Earney three pointer gave Fort Hays the momentum they needed to take the game away. The Tiger defense held the Huskies to only 9 points in the final quarter of play. 

Earney, a freshman, led the Tigers with two three point shots. The Tigers were 4-17 from the three point line.  

Though the Tigers struggled at the free throw line, they were able to take it away with a pair of free throws from Whitney Randall with 0:25 remaining. Emma Ruddle added the final point of the night on a freethrow.  

Randall played a major role in the night’s win, scoring 12 points alongside 9 rebounds. Randall is one of only two seniors on a predominantly young team. Fellow senior Jaden Hobbs is currently out with an ankle injury. 

“Whitney came up big and we need her to, we have one kid that's older than a sophomore on the court right now and she had a good game, played really strong, rebounded the ball really hard, so we’re gonna look to her for a little more leadership like that until Jaden gets back,” Head Coach Tony Hobson said. 

Sophomore Lauren West also showed up big for the Tigers, scoring 11 points in the contest. She was also able to muster out three steals in a very physical game. West is in her first year as a Tiger after transferring from UMKC where she appeared in 30 games. 

“I love it here, I’m ready to put in work seriously, the last two years I wasn’t able to see the floor as much so now I’m just ready to go,” West said. 

Coach Hobson knew that the game would be a grind, and shooting over St Cloud’s Nikki Kilboten, a 6’2” 5th year senior, proved to be a difficult task.  

“I knew it wouldn’t be easy and we just couldn't get anything inside because she’s a really good defender, really hard to shoot over, she doesn’t leave her feet until it’s time to block a shot. She stays patient, she can get a lot of blocks without fouling,” Hobson said. 

Hobson did, however, commend his team in their efforts and ability to hang with an experienced, very physical Husky team. 

“I was proud of us, how we hung in there when they made a run at us, they got ahead, but we finished well, probably rebounded the ball as best as we could in the second half, we got every one of them, so we didn’t give them any second chances,” Hobson added. 

The Tiger roster is made up of nine freshman, two sophomores, one junior, and two seniors. Hobson stated it’s all about experience and finding comfort on the court. 

“They’ve never played here in this setting so they’ll get better, but we got the job done, we did what we needed to do and that was get out of here with a win.”