KANSAS CITY, Mo. (FHSU) - After coming up short in its previous two trips to the MIAA Championship title game, the third-ranked Fort Hays State women's basketball team got the job done on the third try, defeating Central Missouri 63-56 to win its first MIAA Tournament championship Sunday (March 10). As a result, the Tigers (30-1) have earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball championship.
The Tigers earned a one-seed in the Central Region and will host the opening round beginning Friday.
This is Fort Hays State's 11th conference championship in program history and its second conference tournament title (1993 RMAC Shootout). The Tigers now have 30 wins on the season, tied for the second most in program history. It was the 103rd victory over the last four years, matching the team's best four-year stretch.
The Tigers never trailed in the contest, taking the lead 11 seconds in on a layup from tournament Most Outstanding Player Tatyana Legette and never letting up. Fort Hays State scored the first seven points of the game and scored on its first eight possessions, racing out to an 18-5 lead less than five minutes into the game. Both teams were highly efficient in the first quarter, combining to hit nearly 70 percent from the floor (16-of-23).
But Central Missouri proved why it was the No. 2 seed in the tournament, fighting back within four by the end of the first quarter, 22-18, before closing within a bucket to start the second stanza. The teams cooled off significantly in the second quarter, scoring just 16 total points. Fort Hays State padded its lead back to eight by the halftime break, 32-24.
Lanie Page scored six quick points out of the break to stretch the lead to 14, putting the lead in double figures where it would remain for the rest of the third quarter. The lead grew as high as 15 in the final quarter, 50-35, before the Jennies put together one final run. UCM went on a 17-8 run to close within two possessions with less than a minute to go, 58-52. The Tigers iced the game thanks to a 5-for-6 effort from the free-throw line over the final 32 seconds.
Tatyana Legette was joined on the All-Tournament team by Lanie Page and Taylor Rolfs. Rolfs led the team with 17 points while Legette put together her ninth double-double, totaling 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Page contributed 10 points, four steals, two blocks and three assists while Belle Barbieri added 10 points and two steals.
The Tigers turned Central Missouri over 19 times, totaling 12 steals and three blocks. The Tigers shot 46.0 percent from the floor (23-of-50), their 16th game with a shooting percentage of 45 percent or better.
Fort Hays State is the first No. 1 seed to win the MIAA Championship since 2013, ending the longest drought in tournament history.