The Lady Raiders’ winning streak is now up to eight games, and Friday and Sunday’s wins against State Fair and Moberly Area show why they’re 15-3 on the season. Three Rivers has found different ways to win whether it has been able to blow teams like it did against Moberly Area out or grind out an ugly win with gritty defense like Friday’s game at State Fair. Either way, wins are wins, and they keep stacking up for the Lady Raiders. Friday, State Fair was able to limit Three Rivers (15-3, 3-0 Region XVI) to 34 percent shooting from the floor and its lowest point total of the season, but the Lady Raiders still walked away with a win. Three Rivers has relied on defense to get the job done when its offense goes through cold streaks. It was a huge factor in its win Friday as the Lady Raiders held the Lady Roadrunners to less than 29 percent shooting from the fi eld and forced 24 turnovers. Hannah Thurmon has been an anchor on the defensive end lately, finding different ways to contribute until she finds her shooting stroke. For the season, Thurmon shoots 32 percent and averages 7.9 points. But defensively, she’s been a force. She swatted four shots Friday at State Fair to go along with two steals, and she blocked three shots and got three steals against Moberly Area. Thurmon averages 1.6 blocks per game, which leads the team, and she’s one of 10 players on the roster averaging over a steal per game. “On the defensive side of things, she’s rock-solid back there,” Lady Raiders coach Jeff Walk said. “That enables us to press a little bit more and put more pressure on them and funnel people to her because she’s averaging probably around two blocks per game and double that in altered shots. So, she’s not scoring, but that’s going to come around because she’s too good of a shooter for that not to.” She’s been a big contributor on the glass, too, averaging 6.7 rebounds, which is third on the team behind Deanay Watson and An’Nyah Pettus, who both average 7.8. Despite dealing with a height disadvantage against several opponents, including State Fair and Moberly over the weekend, the Lady Raiders average a plus 9.5 rebounding margin for the year and won the battle on the glass in both outings Friday and Sunday, including a plus-17 advantage against Moberly Area, which has three six-footers compared to one for the Lady Raiders. “We’re just making sure our rotations out of our zone half-court defense have been doing what they’re supposed to do and making sure to block out,” Walk said. “The guards have got to go in and rebound, so you’ve got our big kids blocking out and holding while our guards are able to go in and get some rebounds.” Five-foot, 5-inch Hailee Erickson showed how that style of play is working Friday when she grabbed fi ve rebounds. On the year, Erickson averages 3.6 rebounds and has a season high of nine. Sunday against Moberly, Three Rivers did much of the same defensively, but its offense showed up, too, which led to its 10th win by 20 or more points. The Lady Raiders shot 5 3 percent from inside the 3-point line and scored 42 points in the paint. Katelyn South led the team in scoring with 19 points after she’d gone four out of five games without scoring in double figures. All four of the other games were wins, and it shows the depth of the Lady Raiders, who currently have five different players scoring averaging double figures. “Finding a way to win… being able to impose your will, the will to win a basketball game and do whatever it takes, these kids seem to have that,” Walk said. “They can go out there and one game do something and the next game do something totally opposite that they probably haven’t done in a game or two, so we’ve got a versatile bunch of kids.” While the Lady Raiders don’t play again until they host Crowder at 2 p.m. Saturday, the Raiders have a quick turnaround to try to get ready for their next game after going 1-1 over the weekend.
The Raiders have been dealing with a lack of size all season. It didn’t seem to bother them Friday as they won a double overtime thriller against State Fair. But it was too much to handle Sunday as Moberly Area showed why its on an eight-game winning streak.
Against State Fair, the Raiders (8-10, 2-1 Region XVI) had a 48 to 44 edge in rebounding despite going against a team with seven players listed at 6-foot-6 or taller. Aaron Tait is the tallest Raider at 6-foot-6. The Raiders were able to come away with a 97-95 win in double overtime thanks in part to their defense and ability to rebound the basketball. Moberly Area made the most of its size advantage, though. The Greyhounds finished with a 62 to 38 advantage in rebounding, including 16 offensive rebounds. “That’s just a maturing process,” Raiders coach Gene Bess said. “We’re not as physical as a lot of teams, and it’s going to be one of those situations where we have to play above our strength and size some in order to compete on the boards. We played two really nice games against (Mineral Area) and State Fair, and we took two steps forward and three steps back against Moberly simply because we just didn’t come to play.” Bess said the biggest difference between the two teams is Moberly was much more physical, had more depth and had a faster style of play than the Roadrunners. The Raiders had an extra day off to rest from their double overtime game against State Fair since their game against Moberly was moved to Sunday due to heavy snow, but Bess was looking forward to the chance to play the back-to-back. “I thought it was great for preparing us for the future,” Bess said. “... We intentionally put that together because there’s a learning curve that we try to go through.” In its return home to host Link Year Prep Tuesday, Three Rivers will have another tall task on the glass. The Lions have four players listed at 6-foot-7 or taller, including Kalin Bennett, who checks in at 6-foot-10 and 305 pounds. “They’re going to have some good size,” Bess said. “They’re a pretty good prep school, and we think they’re going to be organized and well-coached.” Part of the process for Three Rivers will include getting ready for Link Year Prep’s versatile offense. “They’ll do horns up, horns down. They do a lot of dribble weave and ball screens, it’s just universal stuff,” Bess said. They’re really talented. They have a lot of players who are going to prep school instead of junior college so they don’t lose a year of eligibility. You never know exactly what to expect from a prep school, but I know they’ve been playing junior colleges and winning a lot of games.” Three Rivers will host Link Year Prep at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Bess Activity Center.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic