Tiger women roll to record win
By AUSTIN COLBERT
At 5-foot-10, Jill Faxon was one of the taller girls when she played for her high school team in Beatrice, Neb. While not necessarily big, her height meant she spent the majority of her career as a post player, averaging 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game her senior year.
Now a sophomore on the Fort Hays State University women's basketball team, Faxon looks far removed from her days banging around in the paint. She moved to guard last season when FHSU coach Tony Hobson brought her on board, starting one game as a freshman -- she appeared in all 29 -- while averaging 6.3 points and 2.1 rebounds a game.
"Jill is very talented, physically. She can run and jump with anybody in the league ... I think she has an opportunity, if she continues to work, to be a great one here," Hobson said.
"Her primary area of concern is defensively on the perimeter, because in high school, with the way she could jump and her size, she played a lot of the high post and guarded a post player sometimes. So we've really had to work with her defending a guard on the perimeter."
"She is light years ahead of where she was last year, but she can still get better," Hobson added.
But on Wednesday in the team's home opener against NAIA McPherson College, neither Faxon nor any of her teammates looked like they needed much improvement as the Tigers ran over the Bulldogs 120-39 at Gross Memorial Coliseum. The 120 points is a new single-game record for FHSU, surpassing the 116 points scored against Stephens College on Nov. 15, 2006.
"It's a tough situation, obviously for them, but also for us in a way, where you want to respect your opponent," Hobson said. "But at the same time I'm never going to ask my kids not to play hard. So you can kind of control it on playing everybody and I thought our kids did a very good job of that tonight."
Hobson used all 14 of his players against McPherson, all but one seeing double-digit minutes, and had five different players score in double figures in one of the most lopsided wins in school history.
Leading the Tigers was senior center Kate Lehman, who scored 30 points -- three shy of her career high -- in just 17 minutes on 11 of 12 shooting. Second in scoring was Faxon, who finished with 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range, a shot she never took in high school.
Faxon scored 31 combined points in her first two career games as a freshman, including 21 against Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Game 2. But after that she recorded only three more double-digit outings, including seven scoreless games.
While she expected to be an important factor this season, she wasn't necessarily thinking it would be as a starter. But when junior guard Taylor Chandler tore her ACL prior to the season, Faxon's importance went up a few notches and she is embracing her new role as a leader, averaging 14.3 points per game over the Tigers' 2-1 start.
"I wanted to work hard enough to where I would eventually get to that spot and improve myself. But with Taylor's injury I felt like I really had to step up and take that role on," said Faxon, who has started all three games this season. "I stayed here over the summer and I think that helped a lot, working with the girls ... I think just the one year gave me a lot of confidence in realizing what it's like going from high school to college and the different level people play at. I think I just needed that year to get confident in myself."
Faxon, along with most of the Tigers, did the majority of her scoring in the second half against McPherson (1-6) on Wednesday, Lehman's 22 halftime points giving the Tigers a commanding 58-18 lead at the break.
FHSU continued to roll in the second half and Hobson continued to shuffle new players in, including freshman guard Kristin Huser, a Victoria product that finished with nine points in mop-up duty in her home debut as a Tiger.
Along with Lehman -- who also led the team with eight rebounds alongside senior Jenna Ulrich (nine points) -- and Faxon, junior guard Beth Bohuslavsky (11), redshirt freshman forward Payton Hoeme (11) and sophomore forward Sarah Pimentel (10) each finished in double figures.
The Tigers shot 58.8 percent, including 63.3 percent in the second half, and outrebounded McPherson 49-19. Sunny Smart's 10 points led the Bulldogs.
"We only had 12 turnovers, and that's what I always fear in a game like that -- is that you just get sloppy and you quit playing as a team and quit moving the ball, so that's what we emphasized," Hobson said. "I don't know if we got any better, but we sure didn't backslide, which happens sometimes. We had a very intense, emotional game our last time out up in Minnesota. I thought we picked up kind of where we left off."
FHSU will return to action Saturday with a 2 p.m. contest against Cameron (Okla.) University (0-2) at GMC.