LUFKIN - To reach Lubbock, the Tyler Junior College Apache Ladies must first travel to Lufkin.
The annual Region XIV Women’s Basketball Tournament gets underway on Wednesday with the grand prize a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament, which this year is being played in the panhandle. The tourney had been held in Salina, Kansas, the last 18 years.
But first there is the matter of earning one of the 24 berths.
TJC, along with seven other squads, are eyeing that trip to nationals. The Region XIV Tournament, hosted by Angelina College, will include three top 25 teams - No. 4 Trinity Valley, No. 20 Tyler and No. 22 Blinn.
The Apache Ladies, coached by Trenia Tillis-Jones, are seeking their third straight trip to nationals.
Up first is a Bossier Parish Community College team that swept TJC in the regular season, the only team in Region XIV to do so. The Lady Cavaliers handed the Apache Ladies their first loss on Dec. 5 in Tyler (71-64). The second loss was Feb. 6 in Bossier City, Louisiana, 77-74.
It’s still a loss that haunts Tillis-Jones as the Lady Cavs shot some 48 free throws in the game.
That was the third loss in what would be a season-high four straight.
However, the Apache Ladies rebounded to close the regular season with four consecutive wins, including an 86-79 victory over then-No. 1 Trinity Valley.
TJC (23-7) is the No. 3 seed in tournament and will meet No. 6 Bossier Parish (19-10) at 8 p.m. Wednesday in a quarterfinals matchup at Shands Gym.
Other games on Wednesday include: No. 1 Trinity Valley (27-2) vs. No. 8 Paris (13-17), 1 p.m.; No. 4 San Jacinto (20-10) vs. No. 5 Angelina (18-12), 3 p.m.; and No. 2 Blinn (22-8) vs. No. 7 Kilgore (16-14), 6 p.m.
The winner of the TJC-BPCC game will play the winner of the Blinn-KC game at 3 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The winner of the TVCC-PJC game will meet the winner of the SJC-AC game at 1 p.m.
The winners of the semifinals will play in the championship game at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
The Apache Ladies and TVCC have met in the last two regional championships, with the Lady Cardinals winning both.
The winner of the tournament gets an automatic bid, but there are also at-large bids. The Apache Ladies have earned at-large bids the last two years.