The Crowder Lady ‘Riders are NJCAA Region 16 champions for the first time under head coach Tina Robbins after dropping Three Rivers on its home court, 81-72 on Saturday.
And that’s not all.
Also for the first time under Robbins, the Lady ‘Riders will play for a District K title on Saturday at Crowder College.
And that’s not all.
Robbins and her Lady ‘Riders, regardless of a win or loss on Saturday, will also move on to the NJCAA National Tournament in Salina, Kan., on March 18. Yep, the No. 15-ranked Lady ‘Riders are going dancing.
“It’s one of the goals that this team set at the beginning of the year,” Robbins said. “They wanted to put a banner on the wall, and, obviously, to do that you have to win a region championship.”
A recent change to the National Tournament format shifted the field from 16 to 24 teams this season. With that, the top two District K teams will both advance. Therefore, win or lose, the Lady ‘Riders are simply playing for seeding position when they host Northeastern Community College on Saturday at Bob Sneller Gymnasium.
One night after escaping State Fair, 79-78, in a Region 16 semifinal, the Lady ‘Riders rallied back from a 10-point deficit in the second half on Saturday and closed the final eight minutes on a tear to grab a 13 point lead with three minutes left en route to the win.
It was a special performance from what Robbins considers a special team.
“I say it all the time, I fell like I’ve been blessed with a great group,” Robbins said. “Everybody sees what they do on the court, but they are great people too. Probably one of our biggest strengths is our team chemistry. They really battle for each other.”
Another key for the Lady ‘Riders this season has been their ability to step up and carry each other despite a rash of injuries that has plagued them throughout. That was evident again on Saturday as they received key contributions from top to bottom.
Bouncing back from an injury, sophomore Veronica Amos poured in 20 points and two blocks, while Dorian Briggs stepped up in a big way with 17 points, two steals and three blocks. On the flipside, Megan Ritter didn’t score any points, but still contributed a solid defensive game with five rebounds and two steals.
“We’ve faced it throughout the year where we’ve had different people out and others have steppd up,” Robbins said. “We had key contributions from everybody on the team. That’s the mark of a good team.”
Page 2 of 2 - Behind Amos and Briggs, Camila Lacerda added 15 points, while Terai Sadler finished with 13, Chloe Nichols three, Caprese Marshall seven and Seleena Neal six. Sadler and Lacerda each had six boards. Lacerda also tossed in 12 assists and two blocks, while Sadler added two steals.
On Friday, Crowder fought off a second half surge by State Fair. The Lady ‘Riders led that one by 18 points in the second half, but it wouldn’t hold. With the game tied in the final minute, Amos hit the front-end of a one-and-one with 1:08 to go to go in front, 79-78. Crowder would make that lead hold despite State Fair getting the ball back with 10.2 seconds left.
Crowder trailed most of the first half, before finally taking the lead with four minutes to go in the half. Crowder led 46-37 at the half.
Sadler led the charge in that game with 32 points and seven boards. Marshall tossed in 11 points, while Lacerda added 10, Nichols four, Briggs six, Ritter two, Amos nine and Neal five. Amos also added eight boards, while Lacerda had 10 assists and two steals. Marshall, meanwhile, added three steals.