The Minnesota State women’s basketball team traveled south this past weekend to take on Fort Hays State in the first round of the NCAA championships. This is Minnesota State’s first tournament appearance since 2015, where they fell to Fort Hays in the first round.
The Mavericks came into the game sporting a 21-6 overall record and 16-5 in NSIC conference play. The Mavs were just coming off a heartbreaking loss to Minnesota Duluth in the second round of the NSIC conference tournament.
Senior guard Maddy Olson talked about the experience playing in the NCAA championships. “The atmosphere there was crazy,” Olson said. “There were so many people there and it was super loud. We were really lucky.”
Fort Hays was the first to get on the board with a jumper by freshman Katie Wagner about a minute into the game. Minnesota State would respond with a 6-0 scoring run started by a jumper from sophomore guard Joey Batt.
The Tigers would respond with a 9-2 scoring run of their own with four minutes remaining in the first quarter. The two teams would trade baskets for the final four minutes as Fort Hays took a 15-12 lead heading into the second quarter.
The first two minutes saw the Mavericks cut the Tigers lead to just one. Fort Hays would answer back, going on a 7-0 scoring run. The Tigers would continue to add offensive pressure during the final three and a half minutes, leading by 13 heading into halftime. Batt led the Mavericks with ten points in the first half while Wagner led the Tigers with 12.
Fort Hays opened the third quarter with a free throw by Wagner to extend their lead to 14. The Mavericks would not go away silently, going on a 12-5 scoring run and cutting the Tiger lead to just seven.
The final three minutes of the third quarter saw Fort Hays continue their consistent scoring. They held a demanding 11 pt lead heading into the final frame.
MSU was able to find a spark as they opened the fourth quarter with a 12-2 run to pull back to within one point. The Tigers responded by hitting two baskets and regaining a five point lead.
The Mavs would answer back with a 6-0 scoring run that would see them gain a 61-60 lead over the Tigers. A Fort Hays 6-0 scoring run in the final 53 seconds would send them to the second round, defeating Minnesota State 66-61.
Batt led the Mavericks in points during the game with 21. As a team, MSU shot 31.5% from the field and forced 20 turnovers.
Olson commented about her team and how well they’ve improved over the year and into the final game. “We knew coming into the year that we were going to have a really young group, but everyone did their part,” Olson said. “We did well being resilient and also forced Fort Hays into our most turnovers we’ve had all season.”
Header Photo: Senior guard Maddy Olson (10) helped lead the Mavericks to their best season in recent history. The team recorded a 21-7 overall record and made the NCAA tournament while Olson provided 9.5 points per game. (Maddie Behrens/The Reporter)
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