With both teams in a two-game skirmish and hungry for victory, Missouri Southern’s women’s game against Fort Hays State on Saturday was set for an exciting matchup.
The game lived up to its billing and more, and when the buzzer went off, Southern (22-6) and 14-6 in the MIAA, ended up on the jubilant side of a 61-58 win Saturday at the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center.
The significance of the victory was not lost on MSSU head coach Ronnie Ressel.
With the MIAA tournament seeds on the line with just two games left in the regular season, Ressel reflected on the win.
“It was huge, we still have two tough games left,” said Ressel. “It’s not only a great game for where we are in the conference, but it’s a great win in regards to the regional standings. Getting a big win against a good team, the way D-II dictates in regards to who makes the national team tournament, this is a very good quality win for us against Fort Hays.”
Senior Cameron Call also embraced the importance of the win.
“Tough games like this are always fun to play and everyone’s emotions are running high, so I think coming out with a win makes the passion even stronger for the postseason,” said Call.
The teams played tight as the first period began, until two 3-pointers by Kryslyn Jones put the Lions up 20-12 in the final minute of the quarter. Jones hit two free throws seconds later and MSSU took a 22-14 lead into the second frame.
A 5-0 Fort Hays run two minutes into the second quarter put the Tigers within three points at 22-19, but Jones’ third trey of the game extended Southern’s lead to 25-19 with seven minutes to go. end of time.
A Layne Skiles 3 at 4:36 gave the Lions an eight-point lead at 32-24, and the Lions enjoyed a 34-31 halftime lead.
The game remained close throughout the third quarter, with neither team able to build more than a four-point lead.
The Tigers took the lead, 36-34, at 8:20 of the third period on an “and one” by Olivia Hollenbeck, but a free throw by Madi Stokes and a bucket by Amaya Johns at 7:05 gave the lead back to the Lions at 37-36.
With MSSU down 48-46 against the Tigers, Jones hit his fourth three of the game and gave the Lions a 49-48 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
In a half that saw 10 lead changes, the fourth quarter remained competitive throughout, with neither team being able to pull away.
MSSU held a 58-56 lead late on when Madi Stokes rebounded a Kate Dilsaver shot with 21 seconds left and the Lions were in control of their own destiny.
After a foul by Brooke Loewe, Southern’s Lacy Stokes was good on both chances from the streak and the Lions held on to a 60-56 lead.
Hollenbeck led the Tigers within two with eight seconds left, but the Lions held on after a free throw by Johns and a home run call on the Tigers gave the Lions a 61–58 victory.
The Lions outscored the Tigers 44-28, including Madi Stokes’ 10 boards and Lacy Stokes’ 9 boards.
“I could go back and look at the last 20 years and we probably didn’t outscore Fort Hays by 16, maybe by one or two, but not by 16. Tonight was a big effort on the scoreboards,” Ressel said.
Jones shared top honors (18) with Fort Hays State’s Katie Wagner. Lacy Stokes finished with 14 points, while Amaya Johns contributed 12. Hollenbeck and Loewe added 13 and 11 points, respectively, for Fort Hays.
Fort Hays fell to 19-10 overall and 14-7 in MIAA play.
The Lions travel to Topeka on Thursday for the first of their last two games of the regular season.