The Three Rivers Raiders are ranked 22nd in the first NJCAA midseason poll after not earning any votes in the preseason rankings.
The Raiders (12-1) opened the season with ten straight wins before a 65-63 loss to Midland on the final night of the Peoples Community Bank Thanksgiving Tournament at the Bess Activity Center.
Among their wins, they beat John A. Logan, which was No. 8 in the preseason poll but has fallen out of the rankings.
Region XVI rivals Moberly Area and Mineral Area, both undefeated, have respectively risen to No. 7 and No. 8 after being ranked 11th and 20th in the preseason.
Three Rivers coach Gene Bess broke the news of the rankings, released Tuesday, in practice and then emphasized that the Raiders were still the underdogs in their own region.
"He tells us it, but then makes us know it means nothing," sophomore Gabe Grant said.
The new No. 1 team is South Plains, followed by Hutchinson, Georgia Highlands, Northwest Florida State and Salt Lake.
The Raiders are scheduled to play the current No. 6 team, Tallahassee, on Dec. 29 at the Tallahassee Classic.
"We're focused on winning every game," Camron Reedus said. "Any loss can take that away, so we're just focused right now."
This is the third year in a row Three Rivers has had a one-loss record and been ranked when the first poll was released.
Three Rivers' holiday schedule was a land mine the past two seasons. Last season, Three Rivers was 2-3 in the month of December. The season before that, it went 2-5 between Nov. 29 and Jan. 3.
In both instances, the Raiders fell out of the rankings and never returned before losing to Moberly Area in the Region XVI tournament semifinals.
The Raiders have beaten Southwestern Illinois and Lewis & Clark since suffering their first loss and have four more games before starting Region XVI play at home against Mineral Area on Jan. 7.
"We'd be lying if we told you being ranked was not important. It is definitely important, just to have that recognition that you are one of the top teams in the country. That is something we need to bring every game, that chip on our shoulder. We've got something to prove," Grant said. "I feel that is going to give us extra motivation throughout the season. We're not just playing for Three Rivers. We're playing for the name and everything that comes with that."
The Lady Raiders (10-2) did not receive any votes in the new women's poll, which keeps preseason favorite Gulf Coast State as the No. 1 team.
State Fair, which was ranked 18th in the preseason, has fallen out of the rankings and Moberly Area (10-1) received votes in the new poll but was not ranked in the top-25.
"Raiders enter poll at No. 22" Daily American Republic 08 Dec 2016: B1