No. 1 seed FHSU opens NCAA Tournament with Minnesota State

Top-seeded Fort Hays State begins NCAA Tournament play this Friday against eighth-seeded Minnesota State in the NCAA Central Regional, held at Gross Memorial Coliseum in Hays. The Tigers (28-3) are ranked sixth nationally and earned the right to host the Central Region on its home court this weekend as the region’s No. 1 seed.

The Tigers secured the MIAA Regular Season Championship by going 18-1 in conference play this year and reached the MIAA Tournament Final before falling to Emporia State, 49-46. FHSU held the No. 1 ranking in the Central Region Rankings all throughout the three releases leading up to the selection show, and will make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2004-05. This year’s appearance is the second overall for FHSU in its NCAA Division II era, and is the first appearance for head coach Tony Hobson, who has guided the Tigers to at least 20 wins in each of the last four seasons (a new school record for consecutive 20-win seasons) and was named the 2015 MIAA Coach of the Year.

MIAA Player of the Year and three-time defending MIAA Defensive Player of the Year Kate Lehman leads the Tigers with averages of 19.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game, scoring in double figures 28 times this season. Lehman became the only player in NCAA Division II history to reach 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 blocks in her career last week and currently ranks second all-time in NCAA Division II for career blocks (506).

Beth Bohuslavsky was named to the All-MIAA Third Team this season and ranks seventh nationally with a 2.51 assist-to-turnover ratio, dishing out 3.8 assists per game while scoring 8.9 points on average. Chelsea Mason and Jill Faxon (MIAA Honorable Mention) have established themselves as the team’s sharpshooters, leading the team in three-point field goals made (59 and 37, respectively), while playing over 20 minutes per game. Keriann Shaw is averaging 5.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, second on the team in boards while being named to the MIAA All-Defensive Team.

MSU (21-9) is making its sixth appearance all-time in the NCAA Tournament and reached the NSIC semifinals this season, falling to NCAA Tournament qualifier Northern State, 58-52. The Mavericks are led by Aubrey Davis’ 13.9 points and 4.8 assists per game, while Lexie Ulfers is pulling down 6.4 rebounds per contest to go with 12.5 points on average. Also in double figures for the season is Sammie Delzotto, who is third on the team with a 12.2 scoring average.

One of the toughest regions in NCAA Division II Tournament, the Central Regional will feature four teams currently in the Top 25 of the WBCA Division II Poll. All eight teams are at least receiving votes and seven have seen time in the Top 25 at some point this season. The winner advancing from the Central Regional will go on to the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, S.D., March 24-27.

The seven other schools competing in the Central Regional this weekend will be No. 2 seed Emporia State (ranked 10th nationally), No. 3 seed Pittsburg State (ranked 13th nationally), No. 4 seed Wayne State (ranked 17th nationally), No. 5 seed Harding, No. 6 seed Northern State, No. 7 seed Arkansas Tech, and No. 8 seed Minnesota State-Mankato.

Four games will take place Friday in the opening round, with the winners advancing to Semifinal games on Saturday night. More information on the NCAA Central Regional can be found using the “Tournament Page” link at the top.

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