For the second time in three years, the Raiders entered the final night of the Peoples Community Bank Thanksgiving Classic undefeated, and lost. Three Rivers College missed the final two of its 28 3-point attempts and fell to Midland College (Texas) 65-63 at the Bess Activity Center. In 2014, it was Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, that hit a buzzer-beating 3 to win by two. This time around, the Raiders had a chance to win and missed.
Three Rivers had the ball, down by four with 28 seconds remaining. Out of a timeout, Camron Reedus buried an off-balance 3 to cut it to a point. "I had to get it up. Time was running out, I figured if I hit it, we'd have a chance to definitely win," Reedus said. With the Raiders in a full-court press, Midland got it past half court and its point guard, Grant Weatherford, was called for traveling. Three Rivers tried for a 3, missed and fouled Jachai Simmons with 5 seconds left. He sank the first free throw in the double bonus and missed the second. Aidan Saunders raced up the court, but missed a 25-footer. "Maybe it's something these kids need to learn," Raider coach Gene Bess said. "I think a lot of people have been super and I watch them practice all the time and they are not super. They have the potential to be pretty good if they would just suck it up and play hard." In the first two games of the Thanksgiving Classic, opponents averaged 44 points, 24 percent shooting, and 24 turnovers a game against Three Rivers, which entered Saturday's game allowing opponents' 33 percent shooting, good for fourth in the country. Midland shot 45 percent from the field, committed 19 turnovers and was the first team in five games to score 65 points against the Raiders. Three Rivers, averaging 5.6 blocks per game, had just one against Midland. "It tells us we've got a lot of work to do," Bess said. "We didn't get anything out of our big men and our scorers weren't giving anything either." Reedus led the Raiders with 13 points after going 3 for 12 on 3-pointers and 4 for 15 overall. Ronnie Carson and Gabe Grant each had 12. Carson, who was 5 for 9 shooting, was the only Raider to shoot better than 50 percent.
Three Rivers' top four scorers were a combined 12 for 49 shooting (24.4 percent). "We missed too many bunnies around the basket. We were not really concentrating and we threw up too much trash and it went in and out, shot too many 3s," Bess said. "A lot of it had to do with our offense. We haven't gotten to the point where we can run our offense well." After the game, Reedus was thinking about the little things the team can correct. "Missed rebounds we should of had, easy layups, all our players missed layups, free throws, just little things we can correct that cost us the game," Reedus said. The Raiders, who put up 62 points in the first half Thursday and 45 in the first half Friday, made one field goal over an 8 minute stretch in the first half. Midland was able to tie the game with just under 3 minutes to play and took its first lead after Sean Ofodile scored through a foul, but missed the free throw that followed. Daniel Soetan broke the drought 10 seconds later to tie the game, and laid in a Carson pass soon after to retake the lead.
Next trip down the court, Kavion Pippen got a threepoint play for his first points of the night and help the Raiders close the first half on a 7-0 run. With under 14 minutes to play, Reedus hit a 3 to put the Raiders ahead by nine, but Midland had it down to one possession with just under 10 minutes to play. Devin Campball sank a 3 to put Midland ahead with 6 minutes to go, Soetan tied it up with a free throw, and Jordan Jackson followed with another 3 to bring the Midland bench to its feet. At the other end of the floor, Mamadou Diakhaby was hurt in the face going for a loose ball and didn't get back on defense. Midland got a tip-in on the power play, the refs called time for Diakhaby, and the irate Three Rivers coaches and fans hollered about how the refs stopped play in the first half when a Midland player was similarly hurt. When play resumed, Juan Cardenas added another Midland basket in the paint and Three Rivers called time on the wrong end of a 12-1 run. Jackson soon dunked, but got a technical for hanging on the rim too long and Grant made both free throws, then Reedus followed with two more. "None of us wanted to lose. We figured that was our chance," Reedus said. "It helped us a little bit, but we just came up short."
Down five with 3 1/2 to go, the Raiders trapped at half court and got an overand-back call, evoking the loudest cheers from the large crowd of the night up to that point. Then Carson tipped in a rebound to cut Midland's lead to three. With 2 minutes to play, the Raiders scooped up a steal and found Soetan for a dunk and the foul but he missed the tying free throw, then missed two more on the Raiders' next possession. With a minute left, Campbell was fouled by the Raider press and made the first to make it four points. Grant's long 3 fell short, but Midland took a quick shot and missed, giving the Raiders the ball with 28 seconds left. Three Rivers' Jeffery Porter did not play for a second straight game after injuring his knee Wednesday. Porter started the first eight games of the season and is averaging 2.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists a game