Lady Raiders have season to remember

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Regardless of what happens in Lubbock, Texas, this coming week, itís been a season to remember for the Three Rivers College womenís basketball team.

Unsure of what to expect from a team primarily made up of newcomers at the beginning of the season, fans have been treated to 20 wins in a row and the programís third trip to the national tournament in its 37-year history. The other two trips to the national tournament were in 1995 and 2004.

While the 2004 team that finished fifth in the nation was full of sophomores, this group was out to prove itself throughout the year.

There were times when opponents doubted them, so motivation has been easy to find. Each game, the Lady Raiders stepped onto the court and let their play do the talking. Whether it was a district championship game with a trip to the national tournament on the line in front of 2,000 fans, or a Tuesday night regular-season matchup in front of a few hundred people, the constant has been the excellence on the court.

Since the opening of the Libla Family Sports Complex, Three Rivers has played in front of big crowds. Coach Jeff Walk said the atmosphere at the district playoff was something heíd never experienced in his decade with the program.

Since overcoming an early 15-point deficit in the Region XVI championship game, the Lady Raiders have shown the teamís readiness for the biggest stage. Several players on the team won state championships in high school, so performing on such a stage they will face this week is nothing new to them.

On the court, height and post play were never the calling cards of this group, but athleticism, shooting skill, defense and hustle have been all year. A group thatís been together for less than a year looks more like a group thatís played together for five seasons.

The team ranks third in the nation with 20 assists per game, has five players averaging double-figures in scoring and are a top-10 team in made field goals per game.

Another accomplishment thatís equally impressive is the mentality the team possesses on the road. Three Rivers is in the midst of its third straight 20-win season, but it went 19-14 away from home in the previous two seasons combined. This year, the Lady Raiders are 14-0 away from home with an 11-0 mark in true road games. They say itís because their preparation never changes. They never take any opponent lightly, preparing for a five-loss team the same way theyíd prepare for a team with a losing record.

As a result of that focus, the coaching staffís philosophy of recruiting players who have won at the high-school level has paid off.

The teamís performance throughout the year means the players get to experience something few others get the chance to. And Walk gets his first trip to the national tournament after a decade in charge.

While they were given the 24th and final seed in the tournament, it just gives them more motivation in a season full of it. It probably wasnít an intentional slight from those who decided the seeding since four of the top 10 seeds were at-large bids who were upset in their region tournaments or district playoffs. That likely pushed the teams who beat them ahead of Three Rivers, but nonetheless, the players werenít pleased, and theyíll use that as bulletin-board material and hope that coupling it with its exceptional play this year results in a long stay in Lubbock.

Congratulations to redshirt sophomore Casey Douglas, sophomores Hailee Erickson and Kim Shaw, redshirt freshman Deanay Watson, freshmen Lana Reed, Katelyn South, JíKayla Fowler, Jordan Little, Hannah Thurmon and AníNyah Pettus, assistant coach Alex Wiggs and coach Walk.

ó Daily American


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