These days, they are still more than two months away from their first regular-season game.
During the summer, the NJCAA implemented several one-time-only rules due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them was moving all basketball games into the second semester. It also restricted the number of practices and scrimmages, so the Raiders have spent the fall exclusively dedicated to practice.
“You have to keep working. We’ve been in the weight room a lot more, so we’re just building. We’re making ourselves better, then we play,” Three Rivers sophomore Autumn Dodd said. “You’ve just got to keep your head right ... It’s all mental at this point until we start playing.”
For freshman and Poplar Bluff alumna Abby Turner, it’s already the longest she’s ever gone without games. Usually, you go from the season ending in the spring to summer ball, and then the season picks back up in the fall. By the time Three Rivers has its first game when it hosts John A. Logan on Jan. 23, it will have been almost 11 months since the Lady Raiders lost to Moberly Area in the Region XVI championship game.
“We’ve shifted from just waiting for a game to just bettering our team, and then we’re going to play. That’s our mindset,” said Dodd, who was 3 for 3 shooting for seven points with a steal, assist and an offensive rebound against Moberly Area.
The players are already a little antsy to start playing. It feels weird right now. It’s basketball season, but it kind of isn’t, at least not yet. So they keep working.
Dodd thinks the team is ahead of where it was this time last year, but it’s hard to tell because they’ve only had a few scrimmages to compare themselves against other teams. Everyone on the team is pushing each other, but how far they’ve come is hard to tell when you don’t have those regular tests.
“I think compared to our first scrimmage, we’ve gotten a lot better,” Turner said. “It’s kind of hard to measure because we haven’t had any games back to back. It’s been all practice with a few scrimmages here and there, and then practice some more.”
For instance, last year then 19th ranked Three Rivers cruised through its first three games with wins by 34 points, 53 points and 33 points.
Then 20th ranked Wabash Valley, which finished the season 30-2, visited the Libla Family Sports Complex, and beat the Raiders 92-81. The Warriors would ultimately lead the nation in points per game, field goal percentage and assists per game.
In another schedule difference, Three Rivers is holding finals the week after Thanksgiving. The men’s and women’s basketball teams also synched up their restricted practice windows to conclude with the school calendar and practice and resume the first week of January. That’s six weeks between practices.
“We’re going to get in the gym and do what we need to do,” Dodd said. “We’ve got a lot more time to get better.”
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic