The Pioneers hit the road for a second time in two weeks to test their development. With a four game scrimmage schedule, the Pioneers stood strong despite a limited roster due to various reasons.
The Pioneers literally stepped off the bus and on to the court with minutes to spare to play their first scrimmage at 10:00 a.m. The Pioneers faced a taller Mississippi Gulf Coast with a face paced tempo. It was a solid defensive performance for the River, with balanced scoring on the offensive end. Rebounds hurt the Pioneers but they were able to big up an early morning win to start the day.
The Pioneers went on to face in-state Region 8 foes Pensacola and Daytona State in the next two games. The River continued to fight even without a deep bench and managed to get an early 10-2 lead before Pensacola found their rhythmn and disrupted the River. Pensacola's pressure found the River struggling to adjust and that ultimately affected IRSC on the offensive end. Pensacola walked away with solid win that challenged the River to grow. Daytona State found the Pioneers still spinning from game two and from the start the Falcons took advantage of the Pioneers lack of confidence. IRSC struggled to find cohesion and battled the team's system of play, however, the adversity created a few growth moments for the River. On court team huddles began, player accountability and communication was seen, the will to win was challenged and the team had not choice to work together to pull through it. Although Daytona State pulled off a clear victory, the River walked away winning the small battles that build teams.
The last game of the Southern Challenge jamboree found the River playing back to back and again facing a much taller and aggressive Hinds team. Using the lessons learned from the two previous games and focusing on what worked in game one, the Pioneers competed despite the height and speed differences. With a solid rotation of players in place, the River's team defense returned and sparked them to flow into their offensive sets. The River traded baskets a majority of the game with Hinds until final minute defensive adjustments created turnovers that resulted in a solid three point bucket to win the game by one.
The weekend challenged the Pioneers to grow. From watching Jacksonville University's womens team practice the same style of defense the Pioneers run to the bus ride home, the Pioneers grew. "There are so many facets to team development in basketball, but one that is often overlooked is team chemistry" said sixth year head coach Diana Couch. "Obviously skill development, team defense and offensive systems are major priorities; teams learning accountability, dependability and communication is just as important. These ladies went on the road with a limited roster and four games in one day to compete in. They had no choice but to learn and grow this weekend. We are very proud of the way they adapated and performed, each game taught us a lesson."
The Pioneers have eleven days to prepare before their "Basketball Kick-Off Event" scheduled for Thursday, October 26th at 6:00pm. It is the River's version of Midnight Madness. Everyone is welcomed to attend the event on the main campus in Fort Pierce.