Ryan Prickett, Sports Information Director
HAYS – The Fort Hays State women’s basketball team never trailed in a 67-58 victory over Northeastern State on Saturday. It was the final home game for this year’s senior class of Belle Barbieri, Kyleigh Kasper, Kacey Kennett, Lanie Page and Taylor Rolfs, a group that has helped the Tigers to 100 wins over the last four seasons. It is just the second time a senior class has won more than 100 games at FHSU.
The win gave the Tigers (20-6, 11-6 MIAA) a 20-win season for the ninth year in a row, extending the program’s record streak. It is the longest active streak amongst MIAA programs, three years longer than second place (Pittsburg State, six straight 20-win seasons).
Fort Hays State took the lead 15 seconds into the contest on a layup from Kasper and never looked back. Making her first career start, Kasper added another bucket on the next trip down the floor to double the lead.
The defense took over for the rest of the opening period, forcing five turnovers and limiting Northeastern State to just two field goals over the first 10 minutes of play. Kennett hit all three of her shot attempts in the first quarter and added a pair of free throws, helping the Tigers to a 19-7 lead.
Northeastern State outscored the Tigers by one in each of the final three periods, but the first-quarter deficit proved too much to overcome. Both teams struggled from the floor in the second quarter before NSU figured things out in the third quarter, knocking down 9-of-17 from the floor to keep the score within range. Fort Hays State managed just four field goals in the third period, but the Tigers maintained their lead thanks to 12-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line.
The RiverHawks narrowed the gap to seven midway through the fourth quarter, but Fort Hays State seemed to have an answer for each NSU bucket. Barbieri and Cydney Bergmann both hit a pair of free throws down the stretch and the Tiger defense held NSU without a field goal over the final two minutes, 58 seconds to secure the victory.
Jaden Hobbs led the Tigers with 14 points after knocking down two 3-pointers, with Kennett adding 12 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Barbieri scored eight points, all in the fourth quarter, while adding seven rebounds and a team-high four assists.
Whitney Randall totaled 11 points, six rebounds, two assists, one steal and one block, while Bergmann chipped in nine points thanks to seven free throws.
The Tigers did not have their best day from the floor, hitting just 38.5 percent of their shots (20-of-52), but the defense limited NSU to a 36.4 percent shooting and forced 13 turnovers to create some separation. FHSU got to the line a season-high 37 times, knocking down 24 free throws. The Tigers dominated on the boards, outrebounding NSU 42-30.
Fort Hays State now sits in a three-way tie for fifth place in the MIAA standings with just two games to play. With just three wins separating the middle six teams in the conference, FHSU can still finish as high as third and as low as eighth when the dust settles next weekend.
The Tigers will look to continue their climb in the league standings Thursday, Feb. 27 when they head to Edmond, Okla. for a huge game against Central Oklahoma. The Bronchos were just two spots behind FHSU in last week’s initial set of Central Region rankings. The opening tip from Hamilton Field House is set for 5:30 p.m.