Ryan Prickett, Sports Information Director
HAYS – After leading by 11 at halftime, the 16th-ranked Fort Hays State women’s basketball team (11-2, 2-2 MIAA) held off Pittsburg State just long enough to capture a 75-74 win Monday evening (Jan. 6), handing the Gorillas (7-5, 3-1 MIAA) their first conference loss of the season. The victory was Fort Hays State’s 30th-consecutive regular season home win, a streak that began nearly two years (1/18/18).
After trailing by nine early in the fourth quarter, Pittsburg State closed within two at the midway point of the frame thanks to a 10-3 run. Jaden Hobbs ended the run and electrified the home crowd with 3:40 to play when she made a driving layup through contact. The junior drilled the ensuing free throw, putting the Tigers back in front by five, 72-67.
Maya Williams of Pittsburg State answered with a bucket before Hobbs hit another free throw to make it a four-point game with 3:13 on the clock. Williams came up with another clutch bucket for the Gorillas on the following possession, making a layup while drawing a foul. The following free throw helped PSU claw within one, 73-72.
After missed shots on both ends, Cydney Bergmann subbed in as a defensive replacement. The sophomore immediately made a big play, swiping the inbounds pass. The Tigers set up their offense and ran down the clock until Hobbs found Kacey Kennett with a pass in the lane. The senior turned around and banked in a layup in traffic to put the Tigers in front by three with 1:48 to play, 75-72.
Gorilla forward Athena Alvarado responded with her 10th bucket of the evening, backing down the lane before knocking down a turnaround hook shot to cut back within one.
Neither side capitalized on prime opportunities over the final 90 seconds of action. The Tigers made two uncharacteristic turnovers to leave the door open, but Pittsburg State was unable to take advantage. Alvarado, the game’s leading scorer with 21 points, turned the ball over once after dribbling out of bounds and then missed a pair of free throws with 5.9 seconds left.
After the second free throw hung on the rim for what felt like an eternity, the ball finally fell into Kennett’s welcoming arms. Following a quick foul, Kennett missed a pair of free throws, but Pittsburg State failed to get off a shot in the final 2.9 seconds to hand FHSU a crucial league victory.
The lead changed hands five times in the first quarter before Fort Hays State started to pull away late in the second frame. The Tigers closed the first half on a 10-2 run to take a 43-32 lead into the locker room.
Despite losing the field goal percentage battle by a significant margin, 60.7-45.8, the Tigers made up enough ground with 17 free throws, compared to just five PSU makes from the charity stripe. Fort Hays State also made up significant ground with 15 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds, while holding the Gorillas to just eight second-chance points.
Pittsburg State did most of its damage in the paint, scoring 60 of its 74 points down low. The Gorillas hit just 1-of-12 attempts from behind the arc. Despite coming in averaging just 10.2 turnovers per game, Fort Hays State forced the Gorillas into a season-high 17 turnovers. The Tigers turned those miscues into 21 points off turnovers.
Five Tigers scored in double figures for the first time this season, led by 15 points from Whitney Randall. Hobbs stuffed the stat sheet with 14 points, eight rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block.
Bergmann scored a career-high 13 points, including 10 points in less than five minutes played in the first quarter. Belle Barbieri and Taylor Rolfs added 10 points each.
The Tigers will play their third game in six days Thursday (Jan. 9) when they travel south to battle Northeastern State. First tip from Tahlequah, Okla. is set for 5:30 p.m.