Three Rivers women’s basketball saw a meteoric rise to a national contender a season ago, finishing 27-4 and making its first appearance in the NJCAA Tournament since 2004.
The Lady Raiders will boast a sophomore-laden roster this season as coach Jeff Walk and co-head coach Alex Wiggs will try to lead the squad to back-to-back appearances in the national tournament in Walk’s final year before retiring. With that experience will come a tougher schedule. Here’s a breakdown:
The Lady Raiders will play their first four games at home, so the team’s seven incoming freshmen can ease into the experience of the college game before dealing with the rigors of a long travel schedule.
“It gets their feet wet,” Walk said. “Playing at home, I hope it gets them a little excited, you know, just make everything get off on the right foot. Plus, we’re playing some pretty stiff competition.”
After an opening-day game with Olney (Ill.) Central on Nov. 2, Three Rivers will get a rematch of a double-overtime thriller against Southeastern Illinois. In last year’s meeting, Southeastern hit a buzzer-beater to win 90-88 in double overtime.
On Nov. 9, the Lady Raiders host Wabash Valley (Ill.) to finish up the first home stand of the season. Wabash Valley spent much of the season atop the rankings in the NJCAA Division I top 25, finishing the season 32-1 and reaching the NJCAA Tournament quarterfinals.
To boost the strength of schedule across Region XVI teams, the region will now play each other three times instead of two. For the first semester games, there will be two Region XVI Showdowns with alternating hosts.
On Nov. 22 and 23, the Lady Raiders will play the first of these challenges in Sedalia, Missouri, facing Mineral Area and Crowder. The team will then get a small break in the schedule with games at Arkansas Baptist and at home against John A. Logan (Ill.) before jumping into its second Region XVI Showdown.
The Lady Raiders will host the December Region XVI Showdown this season, facing Moberly Area, Jefferson College and State Fair on consecutive days from Dec. 6-8.
The new region format will undoubtedly help each team in regard to strength of schedule due to the added Division I competition. This means if there happens to be two very strong teams in the region, it could open the door for an at-large bid for one team.
“We’re just basically (improving) strength of schedule, that way we can play better competition where we’re not having to play a bunch of JVs or someone that’s not going to make you any better,” Walk said. “This has been in the works for two years now. Been talking about it, trying to get it to go through to help everybody’s schedule.”
Region XVI games will start counting toward the region record in January. Three Rivers begins its region schedule with three straight games on the road at Mineral Area (Jan. 4), Moberly Area (Jan. 10) and State Fair (Jan. 11).
After getting a travel break for a home game against Arkansas State Mid-South, the Lady Raiders will make it four straight region games on the road with a trip to Crowder on Jan. 18.
Three Rivers will finally get a break from a road-heavy portion of its schedule with seven of its last nine games at home. The last stretch of the schedule includes just one region road game at Jefferson College on Feb. 8.
This puts the Lady Raiders in position to keep stacking wins and head into the Region XVI Tournament with a lot of momentum and try to repeat as tournament champions. Overall, the Lady Raiders will play 17 games at home.
“It’s just an awesome deal to have that many home games,” Walk said. “That way, the fans can come out and watch us play and give the kids a warm, fuzzy feeling.”
Three Rivers 2019-20 schedule
|12||at Lndnwd-Bllville JV||7:00|
|16||at John A. Logan||1:00|
|22||Mineral Area (at Sedalia, Mo.)||5:00|
|23||Crowder (at Sedalia, Mo.)||1:00|
|26||at Ark. Baptist||5:00|
|3||John A. Logan||5:00|
|12||Lindenwood Belleville JV||5:00|
|28||TBD (at Memphis)||2:00|
|29||TBD (at Memphis)||12:00|
|4||at Mineral Area*||5:00|
|10||at Moberly Area*||5:00|
|11||at State Fair*||5:30|
|15||Ark. St. Mid-South||5:00|
|4||St. Louis CC||5:00|
|10||at Ark. St. Mid-South||5:30|
|25||Region XVI Tournament||TBA|
|27||Region XVI Tournament||TBA|
|29||Region XVI Tournament||2:00|
*Region XVI game
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic