BY MAKENNA ALLEN
PHOTOS BY JACE ARMSTRONG
The Tigers returned to Gross Memorial Coliseum Wednesday evening to take on the Missouri Southern Lions in the MIAA quarterfinals. After commanding a strong lead early in the game, the Tigers never trailed in order to soundly defeat the No. 8 Lions 71-44.
This evening marked the seventh straight victory for the FHSU women’s basketball team in their series with Missouri Southern. It also served as another step toward the MIAA championship game for the No. 1 seed Tigers.
FHSU began to build their lead just seconds into the first quarter when senior Whitney Randall came out strong with a three pointer. Randall quickly recorded an additional four points that pushed her past the 1,000-point mark for her career. Randall’s achievement makes for the third consecutive season that the Tigers have had a player reach this milestone.
While Randall hit the court running, freshman, Olivia Hollenbeck, contributed an additional six points. Throughout the first quarter, the Tigers slowly extended their lead until they headed into the second period with a 22-7 advantage.
Hollenbeck led the scoring charge for her team, recording a career high of 20 points. Randall also contributed 16 points to the final score.
Women’s basketball head coach, Tony Hobson, suggests it was this strong first quarter that set the team’s mentality for the entire game.
“We got off to a good start and set the tone for the whole game and that was that it was not going to be easy to score on us. You could see that early on,” Hobson said. “We did a good job on all their sets and we got them in foul trouble.”
The Tigers continued this momentum into the second quarter as they put up the first points with a three-pointer by senior Madison Mittie. Soon after, the Lions were finally able to break into double figures on a jumper from the free-throw line.
As the clock continued to run down, however, the Tigers managed to extend their lead to its greatest value yet as they held a 24 point advantage over the Lions.
The Lions managed to garner a bit of momentum from a 6-0 run just before halftime. However, freshman, Katie Wagner, snapped the run with two free-throws that took the Tigers into the locker room with a 37-17 lead.
Wagner and Mittie joined Hollenbeck and Randall in double figures with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Throughout the first half, the Tiger defense remained solid, holding the Lions to just 20% from the field and 16.7% from three-point range. The offense also proved successful in capitalizing on forced turnovers as FHSU scored 18 points off 15 turnovers.
The Tigers themselves struggled in this aspect of the game early in the second half as their first two possessions resulted in turnovers. In fact, the Tigers turned the ball over 14 times throughout the course of play.
The Lions used this opportunity to attempt to cut the Tiger lead. However, with three points and a layup from Randall, the Tigers matched their second-quarter lead of 24 points.
Despite several offensive efforts, the Lions were unable to significantly reduce the deficit. By the time the clock ran down on the third quarter, the Lions were unable to close the gap within 20-points. In fact, the Tigers had matched their 24-point lead on four occasions and when the score reached 57-33 headed into the final 10 minutes of play.
The final quarter of the game saw the Tigers extend their lead to its greatest margin of the game at 29 points. The combined offensive effort of several starters as well as players off the bench allowed the Tigers to dominate by out-scoring the Missouri Southern team 14 to 11.
Though senior Jaden Hobbs recorded just three-points during the game, she helped her team with seven assists, four steals, and one block, all without any turnovers. This solid performance proved pleasing to Hobson.
“She doesn’t force. She doesn’t need to shoot a lot of shots to be effective,” Hobson said. “Some people would look at the box score and say, ‘Hobbs was kind of out of it.’ But that’s not the case. She was just taking what they gave her and not forcing an issue.”
The Tiger victory was truly a team effort, however, as all 10 Tigers who were suited this evening took to the court. Nine of these 10 Tigers were able to record points throughout the course of the game.
This group effort allowed the Tigers to go 43.1% from the field while holding the Lions to just 28.3%. The Tigers were also 33.3% from long-range as opposed to the Missouri Southern team that went 3-21 from beyond the three point arc.
Perhaps the most notable statistic from the evening was the Tiger team’s ability to force 22 turnovers and then convert to score 28 points off of those turnovers.
“We were a little loose with it right after half but up until that point, we were pretty solid with the ball,” Hobson said. “When you can turn them over around the top of the key or higher and if we get it in the right hands, we can usually get a pretty good shot out of it. We did a good job of converting those tonight.”
With this quarter final victory, the Tigers will head to the semifinals for the eighth time in nine years. FHSU will host both the MIAA semifinals and championship games scheduled for Saturday and Sunday.
At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday the Tigers will take on the Emporia State Hornets team that defeated the University of Central Oklahoma this evening. The University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers and Washburn Ichabods will also travel to Hays for a semifinal game that tips off in GMC at 4:00 p.m.
Season ticket holders can purchase their seats Thursday morning while general admission tickets will become available on Friday.
Tiger fans can head out to GMC this Saturday to support the Tigers in the MIAA tournament as FHSU looks to avenge their loss earlier this season to Emporia State.
“We’ve been fortunate to play pretty good in these tournament games,” Hobson said. “We just need to get over the hump and get back that game we lost to Emporia.”