HAYS – The third-ranked Fort Hays State women’s basketball team advanced to the Central Region championship game for the second time in program history after a 71-60 win over MSU Moorhead in the regional semifinals on Saturday. In front of a raucous Gross Memorial Coliseum crowd of 3,725, the Tigers (32-1) established a 14-point second half lead and held on down the stretch to fend off the Dragons (27-7), 71-60.
Fort Hays State moves on to take on No. 7 Southwestern Oklahoma State, the second seed in the regional tournament, on Monday (March 18) at 7 p.m. with a trip to the 2019 NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship Elite Eight on the line.
The win was Fort Hays State’s 18th home win this season as well as the 25th consecutive win inside the Coliseum, with both marks matching program records.
The Tigers trailed by as many as three after another slow start, with FHSU knocking down just three of its first 13 shots. But a put-back layup from Kacey Kennett with just over three minutes left in the opening quarter sparked a run of five-straight makes for the Tigers that stretched into the second quarter. Tatyana Legette tied things up at 14 with a layup before a left wing three-pointer from Madison Mittie put the Tigers in front for good.
Lanie Page splashed in a three early in the second frame before Belle Barbieri added two points on a layup to put the Tigers in front by nine, wrapping up an 11-0 Tiger run. The lead hovered between four and nine for the rest of the half before MSUM went into the locker room down six thanks to a buzzer-beating three-pointer from Kiley Borowicz.
Fort Hays State used a 12-2 run in the middle of the third stanza to go in front by 14, 50-36, aided by back-to-back three-pointers from Kennett and Mittie. But the Dragons would not go away without a fight, scoring the next eight points to cut within six. MSUM hit another three at the buzzer to wrap up the third quarter, trimming the Tiger lead to seven with 10 minutes to play, 54-47.
The Dragons were within one possession on two occasions in the final frame, but three-straight makes from Taylor Rolfs, Kennett and Barbieri pushed the Tiger lead back to nine with just under five minutes to play. Solid defense down the stretch helped the Tigers secure the win, limiting MSUM to just four makes in its final 14 attempts.
The Tigers made the most of their size advantage, getting to the line 25 times (19-of-25, 76 percent) compared to just four free throw attempts for MSUM. Fort Hays State held a slight edge in rebounding, grabbing 37 boards compared to 34 for the Dragons.
After scoring 12 points in the first half, Legette finished the contest with a game-high 21 points, adding four assists, two big blocks and five rebounds. Kennett added 13 points while Barbieri added her sixth double-double and fifth in the last nine games thanks to 12 points and 10 rebounds. Page put up 10 points while Mittie had six after a 2-for-3 effort from behind the arc.
The Tigers are now 15-2 against NSIC programs under head coach Tony Hobson
FHSU moves to 5-4 all-time in the NCAA Tournament