HAYS, Kan. – The third-ranked Fort Hays State women’s basketball team built a 14-point third quarter lead then held on down the stretch to fend off MSU Moorhead 71-60 Saturday in front of a raucous Gross Coliseum crowd of 3,725. The Tigers (32-1) advance to Monday’s NCAA II Central Region championship game where they will play seventh-ranked Southwestern Oklahoma State, the second seed in the regional. The Bulldogs hit a last second 3-pointer to knock off defending national champion Central Missouri 78-75 earlier in the day.
The win was Fort Hays State’s 18th at home this season and extends their home court win streak to 25 straight, both matching program records.
FHSU Postgame Press Conference
The Tigers got off to their second straight slow start and trailed by three early on after hitting just three of their first 13 shots. A put-back layup from Kacey Kennett with just over three minutes left in the opening quarter sparked a run of five-straight makes for the Tigers that stretched into the second quarter. Tatyana Legette tied things up at 14 with a layup before a left wing three-pointer from Madison Mittie put the Tigers in front for good.
Lanie Page splashed in a three early in the second frame before Belle Barbieri added two points on a layup to put the Tigers in front by nine following an 11-0 run. The lead hovered between four and nine for the rest of the half before MSUM went into the locker room down six thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Kiley Borowicz.
Fort Hays State used a 12-2 run in the middle of the third stanza to go in front by 14, 50-36, aided by back-to-back three-pointers from Kennett and Mittie. But the Dragons would not go away without a fight, scoring the next eight points to cut within six. MSUM hit another three at the buzzer to wrap up the third quarter, trimming the Tiger lead to seven with 10 minutes to play, 54-47.
The Dragons were within one possession on two occasions in the fourth quarter, but three-straight makes from Taylor Rolfs, Kennett and Barbieri pushed the Tiger lead back to nine with just under five minutes to play. Solid defense down the stretch helped the Tigers secure the win, limiting MSUM to just four made shot in their final 14 attempts.
The Tigers made the most of their size advantage, getting to the line 25 times (19-of-25, 76 percent) compared to just four free throw attempts for MSUM. Fort Hays State held a slight edge in rebounding, grabbing 37 boards compared to 34 for the Dragons.
After scoring 12 points in the first half, Legette finished the contest with a game-high 21 points, adding four assists, two big blocks and five rebounds. Kennett added 13 points while Barbieri added her sixth double-double and fifth in the last nine games thanks to 12 points and 10 rebounds despite playing only 18 minutes due to foul trouble. Page put up 10 points while Mittie added six after a 2-for-3 effort from behind the arc.
The Tigers are now 15-2 against NSIC programs under head coach Tony Hobson
FHSU moves to 5-4 all-time in the NCAA Tournament