HAYS, Kan. - The second-ranked Fort Hays State women's basketball team held off a late run by Northwest Missouri State on Wednesday (Jan. 12), beating the Bearcats by three, 63-60. The Tigers hit 5-of-6 from the line over the final 99 seconds and blocked two shots in the final 30 seconds to secure the victory.
Northwest (11-3, 6-2 MIAA) led momentarily early in the game before Olivia Hollenbeck scored the first five Tiger points to give the home team the lead. The Tigers (14-1, 8-1 MIAA) eventually led by eight at the end of the first quarter, 21-13, after hitting 63.6 percent from the floor (7-of-11).
The Tigers stretched the lead to 13 midway through the second quarter after opening the frame on a 7-2 run. The Bearcats started to figure things out over the final four minutes before halftime, hitting 5-of-7 from the floor and 3-of-3 from behind the arc to close within seven at halftime, 35-28.
A layup from Katie Wagner and two more buckets from Hollenbeck helped the Tigers push the lead back to 13 early in the third quarter before Northwest responded with a 13-4 run to close within four, 45-41. Whitney Randall helped the Tigers bounce back with a traditional three-point play, but the Bearcats kept things rolling, closing within three by the end of the period, 50-47.
The teams traded punches early in the fourth quarter, with two hard-fought buckets from Jessie Sallach helping the Tigers maintain their lead. Northwest eventually tied things up with 4:34 to play, 54-54, but Wagner answered right away with a jumper to push the Tigers back in front.
The Tiger defense held strong in the fourth quarter, holding Northwest without a field goal for more than five minutes over the heart of the period. Wagner and Hollenbeck both hit buckets before Wagner added a pair of free throws at the 1:39 mark to put the Tigers in front by five, 60-55.
The Bearcats followed with a 3-pointer to close within two before Hobbs hit one free throw to make it a three-point game with 38 seconds to go. Northwest attempted a tying 3-pointer that was blocked into the second row by Katie Wagner before the Bearcats hit two free throws, closing within one with 22 seconds to play. The Bearcats proceeded to poke away a steal to regain possession before Hobbs blocked a shot in the paint.
Northwest missed its next two attempts, while Wagner hit two more free throws at the other end to help the Tigers hang on for their seventh-straight win.
Wagner led all scorers with 20 points while also pacing the Tigers with seven rebounds and two blocks. Hollenbeck added 14 points, with Randall adding 12 points and three steals. Sallach hit all four of her attempts from the floor, totaling eight points and four rebounds off the bench. Hobbs contributed seven points, seven assists and three steals.
The Tigers hit 44.2 percent from the floor (23-of-52), just behind Northwest's effort of 44.9 percent (22-of-49). Northwest kept things close by hitting 10 3-pointers (10-of-23, 43.5 percent), but Fort Hays State made up ground at the free-throw line. The Tigers hit 16-of-21 (76.2 percent) while the Bearcats hit just 6-of-8 from the charity stripe (75 percent).
Fort Hays State outscored the Bearcats in the paint, 34-20, while Northwest held a slight edge in rebounds, 31-29.
The Tigers return to the road Saturday (Jan. 15) when FHSU takes on No. 22 Missouri Western in St. Joseph, Mo. Tipoff is set for 1:30 p.m.