Hannah Thurmon didn’t travel far to go to college, but Three Rivers College took her all the way to Texas.
Thurmon, a 2018 Dexter High School graduate, helped the Lady Raiders, of Poplar Bluff, advance to the NJCAA national tournament for the third time in program history. They compiled a 27-4 record, won 20 straight games and were ranked No. 22 in the final NJCAA poll.
TRC lost 88-84 to Jones College (Mississippi) in the first round of the national tournament in Lubbock, Texas. The team defeated Iowa Western 77-59 in the District K playoff and beat Moberly Area 82-77 to win their first Region 16 championship in 15 years.
“We were down by (15). That was the team we just beat by (25) the week before or whatever,” Thurmon said of Moberly Area. “We just kind of gave up and then after halftime, we knew that was not about to happen. That’s when we really came together.”
Thurmon was one of only four players to start every game last season, and only third-team All-American Hailee Erickson played more minutes.
Thurmon was a second-team all-conference selection. She averaged 9.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists and made 71.8 percent of her free throws.
She led the team with 71 blocked shots, which ranked 11th-best nationally.
“Hannah’s just an unbelievable player,” her high school coach, Chad Allen, said. “She’s a great facilitator. She can pass the ball so well for her size. She handles the ball extremely well. Of course, we used her as a point guard here in middle school. She definitely has some experience handling the ball and passing the ball. That’s translated really well at the college level.”
The 6-foot-1 Thurmon didn’t expect to be counted on so much inside, but when the season began, she was the tallest person on the team.
“We had two post players leave before school started,” Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk said. “They were 6-2 and 6-4. She was No. 3 (in height) and became No. 1. She did a tremendous job, adapting and overcoming adversity.”
Thurmon said, “I knew I had to keep players out of the paint and stop them from scoring. I wasn’t the only post in high school. I didn’t have to (worry about that as much). In college I didn’t think I’d be (the tallest). Losing a couple of bigs the summer before, I knew I had to step up.”
Walk said that the sky’s the limit for Thurmon, if she continues to work hard.
“Her all-around game keeps getting better,” Walk said, “and she can flat pass the basketball. The defensive end, she has a knack for knowing how to block shots and not get in foul trouble. That comes from playing volleyball (at Dexter).”
Thurman was an all-stater for the district champion Bearcats volleyball team during her senior year.
The Lady Raiders’ dominant run to the national tournament didn’t start out that way. They began the season 3-2 and were 7-3 by the start of December.
“There at the beginning I was like, ‘Oh gosh. We’re not going to click. We need to change something,’ ” Thurmon said. “Everyone just got closer as friends on the court and off the court, and I think that made the difference. It really showed, I thought. … Everybody stood behind each other no matter what.”
Walk said that Thurmon provided a calming influence for her teammates during that stretch and all season.
“She’s one of those kids you don’t have to do a lot of motivation,” Walk said. “She has that inner drive. She wants to be good. She has that calm demeanor. Not a lot of things rattle her. She’s coachable. She makes adjustments on the fly.”
Coming from a high school program that won four district championships and compiled an 87-31 record during her four years of high school, Thurmon said the experience helped her at the collegiate level.
“(I) come from a winning team. We did so well,” Thurmon said. “All the other players came from winning teams. It was kind of like you’ve been in situations at state. We went through that in high school. It’s kind of like that, the region tournament. You’ve been in that situation. You know how to handle it.”
Thurman and the Lady Raiders made history last season for another reason. They were the first TRC team to play and win a basketball game at the Libla Family Sports Complex. They defeated State Fair 80-68 Feb. 2 in the first game played at the facility.
“It just felt like a whole new thing. It was different but it was so much better,” Thurmon said. “The environment seemed to be so much more welcoming. We enjoyed playing in the other gym, but it was like a whole new level.”
Thurman compared Libla Family Sports Complex to the facility in which the national tournament was held.
“It was crazy. It was the coolest thing,” Thurmon said of the national tournament. “Even though we did lose, we knew that if we would’ve got past that first game, we would’ve gone a lot further. Just being there with the girls and spending the week there and getting to see the competition, that was kind of neat.”
The Lady Raiders competed in the 1,950-seat Rip Griffin Center of Lubbock Christian University. Libla seats more than 3,000.
In the classroom
Thurmon is majoring in business and plans to take over her father’s insurance agency.
“I was going to do nursing then I knew there was just no way to do basketball and nursing,” Thurmon said. “It was going to be way too hard, too much to do. I changed it to business. I thought that was my best bet.”
With the infusion of new players — including her former high school teammate Chaylea Mosby — and a strong group of returning players, Thurmon believes that the Lady Raiders could be better next season.
“She’s definitely in a situation that I think she absolutely loves,” Allen said. “When you’re winning, it always helps. They’ve got a great group of girls, and they’ve got a great incoming class. The incoming class they’ve got and what they return, they should definitely have something pretty special over there.”
Kyle Smith - Dexter Statesmen