BY KACIE TIMMONS
PHOTOS BY CORA TASSET
MANHATTAN, Kansas — Once again, Tiger basketball will be returning to Hays, America as the Fort Hays State women’s basketball team prepares to start their 2019-2020 season. After winning both the regular-season MIAA title and the conference tournament championship last year, the Tigers have a lot of eyes on them leading up to this season.
The Tigers played their one and only exhibition game at Kansas State University on Friday, November 1st. This is the third year in a row the Tigers faced the Wildcats during exhibition play. Even after the Tigers rallied back from a 17-point deficit at the beginning of the third quarter, FHSU came up short against the Wildcats 78-60.
Starting the second half ahead 41-31, the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run to extend their lead to 17 before senior forward Belle Barbieri scored a layup and junior guard Jaden Hobbs hit a three-pointer. Another layup by Barbieri pulled the Tigers within 10 points before heading into a timeout halfway through the third quarter. Neither team scored again until sophomore forward Cassidy Haufler hit two free throws after an offensive rebound with a little under two minutes left to go in the quarter.
KSU’s Rachel Ranke answered with a three-pointer for the Wildcats, but three free throws and a three-pointer from junior guard Madison Mittie brought the Tigers back within five. A successful free throw for each team maintained the score difference and the Tigers ended the third quarter trailing 52-47.
FHSU made an effort to stick with the Wildcats during the fourth quarter but they could not stop Christianna Carr from scoring eight consecutive points including two threes. A bucket from junior forward Whitney Randall and Barbieri each could not stop K-State’s momentum as the Wildcats continued to increase their lead to eighteen.
Tony Hobson is entering his 12th season with the Tigers and is looking to build off a 32-2 record from last season. He thinks his players performed well for their first game of the season.
“I think for three quarters we more than held our own, but they wore us down in the fourth quarter and we started getting a little tired,” Fort Hays head coach Tony Hobson said. “It wears on you when you are outsized inside. When we tried to help more, they skipped passed and hit the three and that stretched the score out.”
Barbieri and Hobbs led the Tigers with 10 points apiece. Barbieri also grabbed 5 rebounds for the Black and Gold. Allison McFarren contributed three three-pointers (9 points) in her freshman debut.
Barbieri knew she would have to be quicker than Ayoki Lee to score in the paint, and credits the guard play of her teammates both tonight and looking forward to the rest of the season.
“We did pretty well for what we had tonight, we have Jaden this year as our point guard and she is really smooth, we also have two freshmen that came in, stepped up, and made some points for us,” Barbieri said. “We still have a lot of returners and some of us are still getting used to this level of play so it is a learning process for us but I think today we did well.”
Hobbs was a stand-out performer at Oklahoma State the past two years, and helped the Cowgirls reach the second round of the NCAA tournament in the 2017-2018 season. The 5’8″ guard is a junior this year with the Tigers.
Of the ten returners, Lanie Paige, Kacey Kennett, Barbieri, and Taylor Rolfs are the four seniors this year for the Tigers, three of which earned all-conference honors last season.
Even with the double-digit loss, Hobson sees positives that his team can build on as the regular season approaches.
“I saw a lot of good things from our kids tonight and we can build on this,” Hobson said. “It helps us a lot to face this level of competition.”
The Tigers have also brought in new talent with the addition of two transfers, Hobbs and Haufler, as well as two freshmen, McFarren and Lauryn Reither.
The Tigers stayed neck to neck with the Wildcats the entire first quarter, but K-State began to pull away during the second quarter. With only a few minutes left in the half, the Wildcats went on an 8-0 run before the Tigers stopped the momentum with back to back three-pointers. KSU led the Tigers 41-31 at halftime.
Kansas State was led by Lee with 24 points and 10 rebounds. Carr had 18 points on 4-9 three-point shooting. KSU outrebounded the Tigers 53-27.
The Tigers open the regular season with a pair of games in St. Joseph, MO next weekend. They are set to face Minnesota Duluth on Friday (Nov. 8) at 1:30 p.m. The Tigers’ first home game will be on November 15 versus Adams State at 7:00 p.m.