BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
Playing in its sixth consecutive MIAA tournament semifinal game on Saturday, the Fort Hays women’s basketball team fell 66-44 in overtime to the University of Central Missouri.
While FHSU (20-12) had lost its previous two games against UCM this season by a combined eight points, Saturday’s game was another nail-biter. FHSU pushed the game to overtime with a last-second three-pointer from Jessie Sallach, but after five extra minutes, the Jennies made a last-second shot of their own to win the game.
“I thought we played the best basketball we’ve played all year the last two games,” FHSU Head Coach Tony Hobson said. “We just needed it to last the last eight to ten games. You always want your team to play the best towards the end of the season, just not the last two games, you need a few more weeks of that. I was proud of the way they showed up this weekend.”
The Tigers got off to a good start, doubling up on UCM 14-7 in the first quarter. The game went back and forth from there, and FHSU bested the Jennies in each scoring category. They shot 41.4 percent overall compared to 40.6 percent, 42.1 percent from three-point range compared to 22.2 percent, and 72.7 percent from the free throw line compared to 62.5 percent.
The key for UCM (25-3) was rebounds, as they pulled down five more than the Tigers. They also gave up four fewer turnovers.
Katie Wagner led FHSU with a game-high 25 points and a team-high ten rebounds, her 11th double-double of the season. Behind her was Megan Earney who had nine points and Olivia Hollenbeck who had eight.
“We had a lot of kids have their moments,” Hobson said. “That’s how you have a good team. You need a bonafide star, and we’ve got one, but they aren’t going to win. You’ve got to have somebody to go with them, and we do. We’ve got a lot of good players and a lot of them stepped up tonight.”
For the Jennies, Olivia Nelson scored 20 points, followed by Ashley Tull who had 14 and the game-winning shot.
Looking past the postseason, Fort Hays will return a majority of their roster, something Hobson touched on in the post-game press conference.
“We should get better,” he said. “This should be the worst team we have in the next few years and it isn’t that bad.”
Wagner also spoke about the experience the team has and what impact that will have going forward.
“A lot of us are sophomores, some of us are in our third year,” she said. “A lot of our game time, situational-based knowledge going into next year will be huge.”
The NCAA will announce the teams who advance to the Central Region tournament later tonight after conference tournaments conclude.