BY RAEGAN NEUFELD
The Fort Hays Tigers and Pittsburg State Gorillas met on Saturday afternoon in what would be a highly competitive contest, with FHSU pulling away in the end, 86-82. Like the matchup last year, which the Tigers won 85-73, this game was characterized by the high level of shooting by both teams.
FHSU had suffered their second loss of the season the game before against Missouri Southern, making their conference and overall records 9-2 and 15-2. The Gorillas came into the game with a 6-5 conference record and an 11-6 overall record.
“We got kind of shook up on Thursday,” freshman forward Katie Wagner said. “I mean, every team has their highs and lows and we just wanted to pick it back up. Obviously, we needed to have a big game today and get together as a team and I think we did that.”
Head coach Tony Hobson said that he saw his team really dig in during the game when it wasn’t going their way.
“I saw a really good reaction from my team. I thought we turned it around. Whitney Randall got us going in the first half, and Jaden [Hobbs], Olivia [Hollenbeck], and Katie [Wagner] kept us going in the second half, among others. I thought everybody that played really played a big role, so I’m happy with everybody,” he said.
The Tigers fell behind after the first quarter, 25-19, and even trailed by 14 points in the second. However, they went on a 10-0 run and ended up scoring 23 points and trailed only by four at the break, 46-42.
FHSU shot 50 percent in the first half, giving them one more point than they had in the entire game against Missouri Southern. The two teams continued to battle back and forth for the next two quarters, but FHSU managed to outscore Pittsburg 19-17 and 25-19 to end up with the win.
The Gorillas seemed to score almost every time they had the ball and actually bested the Tigers in each category of shooting. However, FHSU was able to capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes, scoring 20 points off of Pittsburg’s 18 turnovers.
“The other team was shooting really well and we knew we had to get stops on defense, because we were shooting it pretty well today too, but we weren’t going to win if we didn’t get stops, so ultimately it started on the defensive end,” Wagner said.
All nine players that saw playing time for the Tigers scored. Leading them was Wagner, who scored 20 points and pulled in nine rebounds. Following Wagner were seniors Randall and Hobbs who both scored 16 points. Randall had 12 from three-point shots, going 4-5, which was 80 percent of the Tigers’ threes. Hobbs also contributed six steals. Olivia Hollenbeck was the fourth Tiger with double digits, scoring 14. She went 8-10 on free throws.
Hobson had said that adjusting from their loss Thursday was going to be difficult, but his team rose to the challenge. Notably, they were able to knock down shots that they weren’t able to in the game before.
“I knew when we hit a couple there early that we’d be fine the rest of the game, and we didn’t shoot great but it was reasonable. It’s one of those things where you say ‘if you’re a shooter, step up and shoot it and be comfortable and confident,” he said.
The Tigers move to 16-2 and 10-2 on the season. The win extended their streak of not losing two consecutive home games since the 2010-11 season. The team will look for redemption on the road in their next game, which is a rematch with #14 Nebraska-Kearney on January 29th at 2 P.M.