HAYS - The No. 4 Fort Hays State women's basketball team battled its way to an 85-79 victory over Cameron Saturday afternoon inside Gross Memorial Coliseum, handing the Aggies (4-1) their first loss of the season.
The Tigers are now 4-0 on the year after winning their 47th-consecutive non-conference, regular season contest.
Both teams appeared to be in control at various points through the contest, with the Aggies leading by as many as 11 in the first half and the Tigers also going in front by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter. But large swings of momentum kept the fans on the edge of their seat all afternoon in a game that featured eight ties and four lead changes.
Cameron opened the game with some lights-out shooting, burying 64.7 percent from the floor (11-of-17) and 66.7 percent from behind the arc (4-of-6). The visitors hit another 3-pointer on the first play of the second quarter to stretch their lead to 30-19 before Lauren West took control for the Tigers. The sophomore tallied 15 points in the period on 4-of-5 shooting, including a trio of 3-pointers, to help FHSU take a four-point lead into the locker room, 47-43. The Tigers never trailed in the game after Emma Ruddle buried a 3-pointer with less than a minute to go before halftime.
The Aggies leveled the score at 50 midway through the third quarter, but Whitney Randall responded with a fast-break layup through contact to give the Tigers the lead for good. The senior hit the ensuing free throw, sparking an 8-0 Tiger run.
The Tigers built up a double-digit lead twice in the final frame, but the Aggies managed to claw back within two possessions each time. Fort Hays State always had an answer, however, thanks to second-year freshman Katie Wagner. The guard scored eight of her 22 points in the final frame, including six points in a row three minutes into the quarter when Cameron narrowed the deficit to four.
Olivia Hollenbeck also scored eight points in the final frame, including two on a fast-break layup that pushed the lead to 11 with 2:40 to play, 81-70. The Aggies made one final push, scoring the next six points to close within five with 47 seconds to play before Emma Ruddle dropped in a layup after beating the press to put the game on ice.
Fort Hays State's size advantage was evident on the glass, with the Tigers outrebounding CU by 27, 55-28. The Tigers had 26 offensive rebounds, while Cameron had just 28 rebounds in the entire contest. FHSU scored 23 second-chance points, compared to just six for Cameron.
West finished the game with a team-high 24 points, including 20 before halftime. Wagner added 22 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three steals, recording her second 15-15 game in eight days after it hadn't been accomplished by a Tiger for the previous four years. Hollenbeck tallied 16 points and six rebounds, with Randall contributing 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. Ruddle chipped in seven points and the only two Tiger blocks.
Maighan Hedge led the Aggies with 25 points and five assists. Cameron hit nine 3-pointers in the contest, seven of which came before halftime.
Fort Hays State will play one more non-conference tune-up before entering league play early next month when the Tigers host NAIA power Sterling on Tuesday. Opening tip is slated for 5:30 p.m. in the first men's and women's doubleheader of the season.