#TCCBasketball: Eagle men, women face difficult openers

Leon Freeman-Daniels
Photo courtesy of Greg Rowland

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (November 3, 2017) – It's opening night for Tallahassee Community College's men's and women's basketball teams, and neither squad is easing into the 2017-18 slate of games. 

The Tallahassee women, who advanced to the NJCAA Tournament in 2017, are in Little Rock, Ark., for a pair of games at the Arkansas Baptist College Season Tip-off Classic. Meanwhile, the Eagle men are opening the season in Poplar Bluff, Mo., with two games at the First Midwest Bank Classic, hosted by Three Rivers College. 

The Eagle women will hit the floor first on Friday, tipping off at 7 p.m. against host Arkansas Baptist College, the first of eight first-time opponents on the 2017-18 schedule. Another brand new opponent, Angelina (Texas) College, awaits in Saturday's noon tip-off. 

Tallahassee posted a 23-8 record last season, advancing to the postseason for the first time since 2010. The journey eventually ended in Lubbock, Texas, with the Eagles' first NJCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. Despite losing all-America guard Lawriell Wilson, who departed Tallahassee as the school's all-time leading scorer, head coach Franqua "Q" Bedell returns two players who were instrumental a year ago – forward Japonica James and guard Jas Hill, although the latter will sit out the first three games, the result of her ejection against Shelton (Ala.) State Community College in the national tournament last March. 

James and Hill are a big reason the Eagles enter the season ranked No. 7 by the NJCAA and No. 3 in the NJCAA Region 8 Coaches' Poll. 

Meanwhile, for head coach Mark White and the Eagle men, Friday's 8 p.m. showdown with Three Rivers will mark Tallahassee's first true season-opening road game since 1999. 

A hostile environment, as well as a talented team looking for some measure of revenge, will greet the Eagles. Three Rivers traveled to Tallahassee last December and watched a second-half lead evaporate in the Eagles' 88-80 win. Both teams advanced to the postseason and while Tallahassee was one and done at the NJCAA Region 8/FCSAA State Tournament, the Raiders' season ended one win shy of a berth in the NJCAA Tournament but not before winning the Region 16 Tournament Championship en route to a 25-8 record. 

Minus the home crowd, Tallahassee will face an equally stiff challenge in Saturday's 6 p.m. game against Mineral Area (Mo.) College.

The Cardinals went 28-3 a year ago, with two of the losses coming to Three Rivers, including a season-ender in the Region 16 Tournament. Mineral Area ended the season ranked No. 9 nationally. 

The Cardinals are unranked to open the 2017-18 season while Tallahassee is ranked No. 13 in the NJCAA poll and No. 4 in the Region 8 Coaches' Poll.