Dexter High School graduate Chaylea Mosby and her sophomore teammates at Three Rivers College hope to complete unfinished business next winter.
Mosby and the Raiders' four other sophomores are taking advantage of a National Junior College Athletic Association rule that allows for a third year of eligibility at the junior college level and will return next season.
The Raiders reached the national semifinals in April when they lost 71-63 to eventual champion Northwest Florida State.
Mosby said unfinished business wasn't the only reason she decided to return.
"Honestly, I did it because — I mean, yeah, we went far this year. It'd be nice to win the whole thing — I'm still super close to home, close to my church, so that's a big reason behind it," Mosby said.
The COVID-19-impacted 2020-21 school year will not cost any NJCAA athletes eligibility.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic that delayed the start of multiple seasons, the NJCAA announced in October that 2020-21 fall, winter and spring seasons won't count toward student-athlete eligibility — whether or not athletes chose to play — giving athletes the option of returning for a third year.
The Raiders' 2020-21 season didn't start until Jan. 23 when they routed John A. Logan 110-60 on their home court. The Raiders were originally scheduled to open the season Oct. 24 against Mineral Area.
While the start of the season was delayed, teams were allowed to practice beginning in October.
"That was tough, especially practicing," Mosby said. "I don't even remember how many days of practice we had before an actual game but that was rough. … We had days where we would be tired of practice, but we pushed through it and got through it."
The Raiders went undefeated during the regular season, winning their first 24 games before losing to Northwest Florida in the final four.
So when did Mosby realize the Raiders could go far?
"It was one of our preseason practices," Mosby said. "We worked on pressing, traps and stuff like that. And that practice … the traps and everything (were) like amazing. And so after that. I said something to Coach (Alex) Wiggs. I was like, we're gonna be good. And he said the same thing. So for me, that was where I was like wow, we have a chance to like really pull this off."
Mosby credited her team's chemistry for its success.
"The chemistry of this team is amazing. And we just all click," Mosby said. "We would all fight for each other, and we would all stand up for each other. That's just how we are. And this team, we just had the will to do whatever we needed to do to get the job done, and we all bought in to our roles and bought into what we needed to do to be successful."
The Raiders won their first three games at nationals, beating Eastern Oklahoma State 76-74, Casper 68-60 and Western Nebraska 79-71.
Mosby called the atmosphere at nationals "awesome."
"The rankings there, they don't matter," Mosby said. "Jones, lost and they were ranked No. 1. They lost in the first round to the 24th-seeded team. So the rankings don't matter. Everyone shows up, and everyone plays hard. So I mean, it's not just a cakewalk."
Mosby was a key figure for the Raiders. She was named a first-team NJCAA All-American and the Region XVI Player of the Year and was named to the All-Region XVI first team and the Missouri Community College Athletic Conference honors squad.
"I wasn't expecting first team. I wasn't really even thinking about the All-America team," Mosby said. "I've had people say, 'you're going to be an All American.' (I would be like), 'oh yeah I am,' but that's crazy to me, too."
Mosby learned last week that her jersey will hang in the Ring of Honor at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tennessee, from July 2021 through May 2022.
Wiggs said her selection to the NJCAA All-America first team was likely the reason for her inclusion.
The Ring of Honor consists of more than 100 jerseys hanging from the rafters of the back rotunda, according to the visitknoxville.com website. These jerseys represent the top high school and college players from each season.
"That's awesome. I'm still shocked," Mosby said. "It's an honor. It's just crazy."
She is planning a trip to Knoxville this summer.
After coming off the bench as a freshman, Mosby averaged 13.6 points, six rebounds, three assists and 2.7 steals this season, finishing second on the team in all four categories.
She made 72 3-pointers to finish fifth in the country and had two double-doubles.
She averaged eight points, 5.75 rebounds, 1.75 assists and one steal in the national tournament.
"She has grown tremendously, as far as putting the ball in the hole," Wiggs said. "She's always been able to score, but she's facing a big jump in athleticism (from) the defense, the size of defenders. She made a big improvement in finding ways to continue to score even when defenders are taller or athletic, finding ways to get the ball in the hole. She was a big leader on this team, bringing it everyday and doing everything on the court, in the classroom and in the community to be a success."
Kyle Smith - Dexter Statesman