Women’s Basketball sees historic season end in Central Region Finals

Top-seed Fort Hays State saw its season come to an end in the NCAA Central Region Final on Monday evening (March 16), falling to second-seeded Emporia State in a hard fought contest at Gross Memorial Coliseum, 66-61.

FHSU (30-4) roared out to a 16-7 lead in the opening seven and a half minutes, tearing off runs of six and four unanswered before ESU rebounded with an 11-0 run of its own that gave them a 18-16 lead with 8:32 on the clock. Just prior to the under-eight media timeout, Chelsea Mason‘s first trey of the game stopped the run and regained the lead for Fort Hays State, 19-18.

From there, the teams traded buckets until three straight from the Lady Hornets put them ahead, 25-23. FHSU was quick to answer, though, as Beth Bohuslavsky went up and under on a reverse layup to tie it before the final media timeout at 2:57. Over the final three minutes, both teams traded possessions but saw just one field goal made – a layup from ESU’s Kelly Moten – and the Tigers trailed at the half, 27-25.

The Tigers shot just 30.6 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes despite hitting six of their first 10 attempts. ESU hit 35.5 percent from the field but was helped by three three-pointers, compared to the Tigers’ one.

ESU started hot in the second, going on a 7-2 run in the first four minutes to build its lead to seven (34-29). A pair of free throws from Bohuslavsky stopped the run, but the Lady Hornets continued to push, growing the lead to 10 (39-29) with 14:30 to play. A layup and free throw from Lehman on the other end cut it back to seven, but another ESU three-pointer put the Lady Hornets on a 5-0 run that made it 44-32 with 12:53 to play.

Just inside 10 minutes to play, Moten hit a layup to build the lead to 13 (51-38) before the Tigers went on a 9-3 run to cut it again to seven, 54-47, with 6:31 to play.

Down 12 with five minutes to go, FHSU broke out on a 9-2 run to shrink the lead to five – capped by a Jill Faxon three-pointer – but a layup from ESU’s Jacee Kramer on the other end end the spurt and put the Lady Hornets up, 63-56, with 2:12 on the clock. Over the final two minutes, FHSU continued to threaten – putting the deficit at five on three other occasions – but time and time again a bucket from ESU snuffed out the comeback.

Lehman played her final game at Fort Hays State to the tune of 27 points, five rebounds and five blocks, finishing her career as one of the top players in FHSU history. Lehman finishes her four years at FHSU with 1,917 points, 1,109 rebounds and 515 blocks, going down as the only women’s basketball in NCAA Division II history to finish with 1,000 points and rebounds and 500 blocks. Lehman is ranked first in FHSU’s career history in rebounds and blocks and is second all-time in points. Additionally, the center finishes her career as second all-time in NCAA Division II career blocks.

Keriann Shaw pulled down 10 rebounds to go with six points and four assists in her final game, leaving the court for the final time to a standing ovation from the crowd.

Bohuslavsky dished out a career-high nine assists in the game, adding six points of her and five rebounds, while Faxon was just short of a double-double, putting eight points and rebounds in the game. Chelsea Mason just missed double figures and had nine points for the evening.

For ESU, Moten dropped 20 points while Addie Lackey and Kathryn Flott each had 13 points.

Fort Hays State ends its season with 30 wins, the second most in school history and the most since the Tigers’ NAIA National Championship season in 1990-91. FHSU was ranked as high as second in the nation this season and won its first ever outright conference title, claiming the MIAA regular season championship by three games. Additionally, the Tigers made their third ever NCAA Tournament appearance and finished as one of the final 16 teams playing the NCAA Tournament.

Lehman and Mason were named to the All-Tournament team along with ESU’s Merissa Quick, Moten and Kathryn Flott.

Emporia State advances to the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, S.D., held March 24-27, and will take on the South Region champion West Texas A&M.

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