Elite Eight bid on the line as Tigers meet Lady Hornets in Central Region Final

A bid to the Elite Eight is on the line Monday night  as top-seeded Fort Hays State takes on No. 2 seeded Emporia State at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays, Kan. The NCAA Tournament Central Region Final tips off at 7 p.m., and is the fourth meeting between the schools this season.

The Tigers have won two of three matchups against ESU this year, sweeping the regular season series before falling to the Lady Hornets in the MIAA Championship, 49-46, earlier this month. In the regular season, FHSU won the first meeting onJanuary 28 in Emporia, 65-55, when ESU was No. 2 in the nation and FHSU was No. 6. FHSU took the rematch in Hays onFebruary 7 by a score of 72-62, when FHSU was No. 3 in the nation and ESU was No. 6. This time around, the Tigers are sixth nationally and ESU is ninth.

FHSU (30-3) reached the 30-win plateau for just the second time in school history last Saturday, advancing in the NCAA Tournament with a 70-54 win over Wayne State. FHSU started slow in the game, scoring just 21 points in the first half (tying its season-low), but scored 49 second half points while pulling away from the Wildcats. Kate Lehman led the team with 23 points on the night and hit 11-of-14 attempts from the charity stripe. Chelsea Mason (13 points) and Beth Bohuslavsky (12 points) each had two three-pointers in the second half as part of the Tigers’ late runs. Mason added six rebounds as well on the night while Paige Lunsford‘s eight rebounds and five assists paced the team.

ESU (27-4) is making its fourth consecutive trip to the regional final after defeating Pittsburg State in overtime on Saturday, 65-54. ESU trailed late before Kelsey Barnwell hit a pair of free throws with 47 seconds remaining to force overtime as both teams turned the ball over in the final 20 seconds. After building a lead in overtime, ESU hit eight of eight free throws in the final 2:25to ice the game. Merissa Quick had 23 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Lady Hornets while Barnwell had 15 points and Kathryn Flott finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.

The winner of Monday’s game advances to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight, held March 24-27 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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