POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - Welcome to April Madness.
Three Rivers held off Moberly Area for a fourth time this season to win the Region XVI championship 78-76 on Saturday at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
"So proud of this group. The hard work they put in all year long, it hasn't been easy," Three Rivers coach Alex Wiggs said. "I told them I trust them all. They haven't given me any reason not to trust them, and we're going to do what it takes to win this game. And they did that down the stretch."
With the win, the undefeated and 10th-ranked Raiders are heading to the national tournament in Lubbock, Texas, which starts April 19.
"I'm excited but not satisfied. I feel like we've got more to accomplish," said Myia Yelder, who led the Raiders with 19 points. "I'm proud of this one, it was a big win, but after tonight the celebration is over."
It's the second time in three years and fourth time in program history they've qualified for the tournament.
"After all this time, all this work, just the time you put in. It's a great feeling," Autumn Dodd said.
Saturday was the third time in four games that Yelder led Three Rivers (21-0) in scoring against Moberly Area (18-5). She finished 5 for 9 shooting, 2 for 3 on 3-pointers and 7 for 11 on free throws.
"For some reason, I don't know, I always play extremely well against them," Yelder said. "But it's hard playing them a fourth time. It's like they know what I'm going to do. They know how I'm going to play, so it's just hard."
Holland had a three-point play, soon after followed by a four-point play in the second quarter when she was fouled on a 3.
Yelder got hot to start the third quarter and scored eight of Three Rivers' first 11 points.
"When we went back for halftime, I had to snap myself out of it," Yelder said. "I was going early, throwing up some crazy things, and I had to focus back in. I just told myself We're not losing.'"
The Raiders, who led by as much as 10 points in the first half and were still ahead by seven at the break, started the third quarter with an eight-point run to go ahead by 15.
"We were making the extra pass, finding open people, and they were just knocking down the shots," said Chaylea Mosby, who was named Region XVI Player of the Year after the game. "I was shocked (to win player of the year). I wasn't expecting that, but it is an amazing feeling. I've been working hard, and it has paid off,"
The Greyhounds got as close as seven points in the third quarter, but the Raiders closed with an 8-2 run.
Haywood hit a 3 to start the fourth quarter to give the Raiders a 16-point lead, their biggest of the game, but the Greyhounds answered with an 18-5 run over the next five minutes to cut the lead to three.
"They were out for us tonight, more than usual. They were tired of getting beat, and we just handled it appropriately," Dodd said.
Moberly got as close as a point with 3 minutes remaining but was 3 for 8 on free throws in the final 2 minutes while the Raiders were 5 for 6.
Three Rivers finished 30 for 41 (73.2%) in the game, while the Greyhounds were 22 for 34 (64.7).
During a tie-up on a rebound with 1 1/2 minutes remaining, Mosby was called for a foul, but B'Aunce Carter was called for a technical foul.
Carter missed her two free throws, then Mosby made both, and the Raiders got the ball.
Both teams traded trips to the line over the next minute, and Three Rivers kept at least a three-point lead.
Mosby stepped to the foul line and put the Raiders ahead by six with 21 seconds left.
"We kept playing hard, and we didn't give up. We just made the plays that we needed to make," Mosby said.
She and Holland were perfect from the line, with Mosby going 6 for 6 and Holland going 7 for 7.
The Greyhounds scored five points in the closing seconds but needed time for one more possession.
"Moberly is a really good team, they have really good players, and they do really well with momentum," Yelder said. "When they have the momentum, it's really hard to stop them. But we figured it out."
Moberly Area's Bi'Anna Pettis picked up two fouls in 90 seconds early in the fourth quarter and fouled out with 6 minutes left in the game. She was the team's leading scorer at the time with 15 points.
"She's an amazing player. That was a big momentum swing," Wiggs said. "Kudos to our girls for continuing to be aggressive and staying in attack mode."
The offense focused on Carter in the post with Pettis out. In the same game last year, Carter was 6 for 8 off the bench as the Greyhounds upset the Raiders.
On Saturday, she had 17 points and 13 rebounds on 7 for 10 shooting to again come off the bench and lead the team in scoring.
Both teams shot 32% from the field. The Greyhounds were able to match the Raiders in points off turnovers with nine.
Three Rivers, second in the nation steals, had four steals in the game.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic