Tigers and Wildcats ready for NCAA Central Region Semifinal Showdown

Top-seeded Fort Hays State (29-3) faces fourth-seeded Wayne State College (28-5) in the semifinals of the NCAA Central Region on Saturday . The game at Gross Memorial Coliseum is the second of two semifinals for the day and will tip off at 7:30 p.m. The winner advances to the Central Region Finals on Monday against either Emporia State or Pittsburg State.

FHSU and WSC are both ranked nationally at No. 6 and No. 19, respectively, and are two of 32 teams remaining in the overall NCAA Tournament. Both teams have been tabbed as high as No. 2 in the WBCA rankings this season and each reached the finals of their conference tournaments. Wayne State fell to Northern State in the NSIC finals and FHSU dropped a narrow contest to Emporia State in the MIAA finals.

Fort Hays State advanced with a 74-57 quarterfinal win over eighth-seeded Minnesota State on Friday, using a strong second half push to secure the win. Chelsea Mason hit four three-pointers and led the team with 21 points while Kate Lehman just missed a double-double, finishing with 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. The Daktronics Central Region Most Outstanding Player was held scoreless in the first half of Friday’s game, but responded with a strong final 20 minutes in the winning effort. FHSU started slow, hitting just one of its first 11 field goal attempts, but a 14-4 run midway through the second (including back-to-back three-pointers from Mason) propelled FHSU into the lead for good.

Wayne State College battled fifth-seeded Harding in its quarterfinal bout, securing an 87-80 win thanks in part to hot shooting from long range late in the game. Jordan Spencer was one of five Wildcats to reach double figures, leading the team with 21 points and six rebounds. Like the Tigers, WSC was slow to start – making just two of its first eight attempts from the field – though a 62 percent second half field goal percentage proved to be the difference. Tied at 74 with Harding just inside five minutes to play, WSC hit five three-pointers down the stretch to snag the win.

The final four teams remaining in the Central Region are all ranked nationally, with three teams representing the MIAA Conference. Monday’s Central Region Championship is the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament overall, and the winner will advance to the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, S.D., held March 24-27 at the Sanford Pentagon.

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