Three Rivers will play its final game inside the Bess Activity Center on Tuesday, and it hopes to give it a proper send-off.
The Raiders are 431-75 inside the BAC since it opened in 1983, having won 85 percent of their games on the Three Rivers campus during that span.
During its time, the BAC has seen five Raiders teams finish in the top five of the NJCAA Tournament and 17 Region XVI championships, including home stretches of 31-0 from 2009-2010 and 35-0 from 1992-93.
“We not only hadn’t lost here, but we hadn’t lost many any place,” Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. “Those were glory days, and I can foresee that in the future with this new facility, and I think we’ve got people who can make it happen.”
Stretches of success like those have made for some great memories for Bess in the BAC.
“I remember several games (in the BAC) as being special,” Bess said. “I can remember us beating Burlington when they had a big old (6-foot, 10-inch) guy and were really good. We beat them here to go to the national tournament and it snowed about seven inches outside while we were beating them. That was certainly memorable.”
The Lady Raiders have had their share of success in the BAC during its last few seasons, too. Over the last three seasons, the Lady Raiders went 33-8 at home and wrapped up their time in the gym with a 26-point win against Region XVI foe Moberly Area.
Three Rivers women’s coach Jeff Walk said it was important to the team to end their last game in the BAC with a victory.
“A proper send-off. A way to finish out however many years there has been girls and women’s basketball in the Bess Activity Center, you know, go out with the W,” Walk said. “That’s just pretty awesome. It kind of puts goosebumps on you.”
Walk said there is one memory that sticks out above the rest when it comes to all of his games coached at the BAC, whether it’s as coach of the Lady Raiders or during his previous role as the coach of Twin Rivers.
“Probably the one that was really shocking was we had the region tournament here with Anna Vogt, Macy Wright, Erin Bollmann, Whitney Welker, and all of those kids were freshmen (in 2012-13),” Walk said.
“They played that one song, (“The Cupid Shuffle”) … they did that during the warmup… and they all had choreographed out what they were going to do and had little 30 second skits, but once it was over they were right back to doing what they were supposed to do.
“That was one of the most memorable moments because that’s lose and you’re done. We were seeded second and playing Moberly. … That was just pretty neat to have kids who could be relaxed enough to go out and do something like that.”
Not only has the BAC hosted countless Three Rivers games since it opened 36 years ago, but it has also provided a home for high school games and OFC tournaments through the years. Some current Lady Raiders played their first games in the gym a few years prior to playing collegiate ball, and they’ve had the chance to make memories in the gym over the years. Katelyn South and Casey Douglas played high school games in the BAC for Twin Rivers, and J’Kayla Fowler played some for Neelyville.
“I remember playing against (Fowler) last year in the OFC Championship here, and we lost but it was still fun,” South said. “And I remember in middle school me and Hannah (Thurmon) would always come to these camps together. And we have pictures of us just sitting on this gym floor, and it’s kind of cool that we play together here.”
South began coming to camps at Three Rivers as early as her fifth-grade year.
“Hannah’s dad was our coach and he told us about it, and he wanted us to come and try to get better,” South said. “I remember we’d come up here together and we were scared but we did good.”
For Fowler, her most memorable game in the BAC was an easy pick because two games after her choice, she earned a ring for a state championship.
“When we played Oran (in the state quarterfinals),” Fowler said. “It was very fun. I always liked playing in this gym. I feel like last year (with Neelyville) we used to play our best in this gym, and I just liked the environment here. It was a different court than the court back home, and I like the crowd and everybody is pumped and stuff, so it gets you kind of excited to play.”
Added Douglas, “We always liked to come in here and play in this gym because in high school it was such a big gym to us and it was pretty cool to play in a college gym.”
With the final college game at the gym Tuesday, the Raiders will hope to avoid being on the wrong side of history before moving into the new Libla Family Sports Complex Saturday.
Three Rivers has lost seven games in the Bess twice in 2013 and 2018. This year, they have a 4-7 record at home, meaning if the Raiders lose Tuesday’s game to Nation Wide Academy, they’ll set the record for most losses in the gym in a single season.
If they win, they can end their time in the BAC on a high note and hope to get their season back on track.
Tuesday’s game against Nation Wide Academy is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic