Apr. 21—BRADSHAW — River View isn't the only Four Seasons Country girls basketball team playing in tonight's co-regional championship games tonight. But the Lady Raiders are the only ones playing at home.
In the Class A Region 3 co-finals, James Monroe (12-5) is traveling to face Webster County (13-2).
River View (14-2) will be in Bradshaw taking on Richwood (7-11) in the Class A, Region 3 co-finals — the first time in program history that the Lady Raiders have had a co-regional home court advantage.
"In 2016-17 we lost the sectional to Bluefield and then won the regional versus Westside. We got in the back door ... but we got in," said River View girls head coach Gehrig Justice, who led the Lady Raiders to the Class AA state tournament that year.
The River View program was only seven years old when that 51-46 upset victory at Clear Fork catapulted the Lady Raiders into a No. 8 seed at Charleston — and a first-round rematch with the Lady Beavers, who'd beaten 64-30 in the sectional finals.
The Lady Raiders gave Bluefield a much better game at the Charleston Civic Center, tying the game up at 32 with less than two minutes remaining in the third period. The Lady Beavers picked it up in the final stanza and ultimately prevailed 53-41, but not before River View made an impression on the big stage. Highly-touted Bluefield went on to an ill-fated meeting with Fairmont Senior in the tournament finals. River View had several players at the top of state tournament individual statistical categories and the Lady Raiders took home the Class AA School Spirit Award.
This year, River View is a Class A team vying for a "front door" entrance to the state.
"This is the first time we've had the pleasure of playing it at home. Any time somebody's got to come to Bradshaw, we figure it's a nice 10-point advantage because of the trip and the roads. A home court advantage takes on a little different meaning for other people," Justice said.
"We're used to traveling so it doesn't really affect us as it does other people when they come to us."
The Class A state tournament bracket will be seeded on Wednesday night and the tournament will begin in Charleston on the following Tuesday.
Justice's seniors were eighth-graders the year of River View's last appearance in the state tournament. One of his veterans — Sheridan Calhoun — was the younger sister of Kristen Calhoun, who was then a freshman player on that varsity squad.
"She kind of tagged along with us a lot. She was with us at the hotel and she was at practices and stuff because she was playing middle school then. So she's kind of seen it before in a passer-by stance, I guess," he said.
Trista Lester leads River View in scoring with 13 points per game. Chloe Mitchem, Haylie Payne, Jenna Atwell and Ali Morgan have all had double-digit outings on different nights for the Raiders, while Katie Bailey and other players have come through strong on the boards or otherwise provided impressive all-around stat lines on any given night.
"We've been really balanced, thoughout the season. We'll have multiple girls scoring eight or nine points or whatever pretty consistently. We haven't had that one person that averages 20-25 points like you'll sometimes see with a lot of teams," Justice said.
With this crazy COVID season, when you're playing four nights a week, it's hard for the same kid to have that same good game night after night after night because of fatigue. That's turned out to be a strength for us. We've been able to have different players step up and be the leading scorer at different times," he said.
If River View is fortunate enough to advance, there will be no Lady Beavers standing in their way. But there are other daunting challenges to be expected.
"Tug Valley seems to be the odds-on favorite and we played them pretty close a few weeks ago minus a couple of players. Once we get there, we think we have a chance to make some noise," he said.