Lady Raiders set to hit the road for National Tournament in Texas

Bart Walker and his Northwest Florida women's basketball team is getting set for the final road trip of the season. The Lady Raiders are the co-champs of the Panhandle Conference along with Gulf Coast.

As it turns out, after each won their State quarter and semifinal games, they wound up facing each other in the State Championship game.

That a game that was close throughout, with Gulf Coast winding up on the right side of a 67-63 score. Still as co-champs of the Panhandle and runner up in Region 8, the Lady Raiders got a much deserved at-large bid to Nationals, though that still left for some nervous hours until the bid came out midday Monday.

"Oh yeah any time you don't get the automatic bid you never know what a committee can do." coach Walker told me Wednesday afternoon. "So we obviously, we were on some pins and needles a little bit going into Monday's selection show. You know we've got a chance to play our third season now. We played through the Conference and our goal was to be Conference champs. And we were. We obviously wanted to win our region, we fell a little short in a great game in the final against Gulf Coast. And now we're in our third season and we've got a chance to play another day together."

Coach Walker tells me the team, after a few days of work at home, will fly to Houston Thursday, then bus it in to Lubbock Thursday night. The venue there a big arena on the campus of Lubbock Christian University. Not unlike the Arena at Northwest, so does that perhaps, gives the Raiders a shooting edge?

"Well you would think so" says Walker "with the aesthetics being the same, you know it makes you a little bit more comfortable with your shooting with your surroundings. Because it is a lot like our Arena. So it helps that you played in that and practiced in that environment as far as familiarity with it."

The Lady Raiders open up Tuesday at noon central against a team out of Oklahoma. Gulf Coast heads west Friday, and will also play it's opener in Lubbock Tuesday, though after a first round bye!