Raiders fight off Blazers

Raiders fight off Blazers

The Raiders spent the final 10 minutes with its starting and backup point guards in foul trouble, and had to fight off North Lake (Texas) in the process. The defense held and got a eight-point burst from the offense to hold off the Blazers and win 81-74 on Saturday at the Bess Activity Center.

Three Rivers (3-0) starting point guard Ronnie Carson picked up his third foul with 6 minutes to go in the first half, and got up his fourth with 10 minutes to go in the second. Less than a minute later KaJuan Christon, the Raiders' backup point guard, picked up his third and he headed to the bench. With both point guards out, Camron Reedus brought the ball up the floor, gave it up, got it back and sank a 3. Then Jeffery Porter sank a 3 from the corner and Gabe Grant added another that put the Raiders ahead by seven, their biggest lead of the night up to that point. "I didn't see much of a difference (in our half-court trap)," said Three Rivers coach Gene Bess, who now has 1,234 wins. Feeling the momentum for the first time all game, Reedus drove and added a layup before North Lake (0-2) called a timeout. "I like the way they took good shots," Bess said of Grant and Reedus who both finished with 25 points. "A game like tonight, I was just grateful we had those two guys who could bury a 3 once in awhile."

Defensively, Porter was responsible for guarding the North Lake point guard and subsequently slowing down the Blazer offense while Reedus was responsible for the best wing player. Three Rivers countered a pair of 3s with buckets at the other end, got a steal with a minute to go and Grant hit two free throws to push the Raider lead back to seven. Needing stops, that's when Carson and Christon returned to the game and used their fresh legs to apply pressure. It was also Carson that grabbed one last rebound off a missed 3 and found Grant halfway up the floor for his first assist, which also set the final score. Carson played 13 minutes and finished with four points and two rebounds. Christon had two assists and two rebounds over 14 minutes. Though Three Rivers matched North Lake in rebounding, the boards were Bess' biggest postgame critique.

The Raiders lost their top two rebounders from last year in Justas Furmanvicius and Dominique Alexander and are searching for that production. Terrence Parker led Three Rivers with eight rebounds and Grant had seven. "Our rebounding is substandard for Raider basketball," Bess said. "Even last year, we out-rebounded everybody by a pretty good margin." The rest of the stats were largely identical. Both teams had 18 2-pointers, 17 fouls, 18 points off turnovers and 16 points in the paint. Where the Raiders found a winning margin was at the foul line, where they were 15 of 17, they had a plus-3 percent effective field goal percentage and were plus-7 in points off the bench. Three Rivers led by as much as six in the first half, but that faded away and turned into an eight point deficit. Reedus jumped a pass midway through and threw down a one-handed jam, roaring after he landed it.

"This is the toughest junior college to play at. Playing for Gene Bess is probably the hardest thing you'll ever do as a junior college player," Reedus said. "Getting through all the tough conditioning drills, you just want to take out some of that aggression you have toward the drills, Bacon Park and all of that." Three Rivers led 18-12 after the dunk, then allowed a 16-2 run that flipped the story line. Three Rivers' only bucket during the 4 minute swing was a baseline jumper by Aidan Saunders that actually gave the Raiders back the lead as soon as they lost it. Reedus finally ended the drought by raining in a 3 just inside the 7 minute mark. He followed that with a reverse layup to cut North Lake's lead to three. Two minutes later, though, it was back to eight and Three Rivers wouldn't get that close again in the first half. North Lake matched its biggest lead of the half after narrowly avoiding a shot clock violation. In the final second of the possession, Josh Harris jumped and put up a prayer that missed everything. He was, however, fouled at the same time the buzzer sounded and stepped to the line to shoot free throws in the bonus. On the Raiders' last possession, Porter sank a 3 for his only points in the first half and set the halftime score at 39-35. The Raiders preach getting five stops to open the second half. Instead, they gave up an open 3 on the first possession and Christon was immediately off the bench. The stops started piling up after that. Three Rivers got a block, forced a shot clock violation, and allowed two points over the next 4 minutes. Meanwhile, Grant got hot with a pair of 3s, a layup, and two free throws for the Raiders' first 10 points out of the break after scoring four in the first half. His free throws at the 17 minute mark gave the Raiders their first lead in 13 minutes.