Playing the first of three games in three nights, the Raiders reserves were called on early Thursday night. Three Rivers College got 73 bench points with four players reaching double figures in a 107- 41 win over Malcolm X College to open the Peoples Community Bank Thanksgiving Tournament. "Coach tells us every game for us to come off the bench with the same energy as starters," said Three Rivers sophomore Terrence Parker, who had 14 points, eight rebounds and four blocks off the bench. "You have to have the same energy so everybody has to be ready." Aidan Saunders scored a game-high 19 off the bench while Gabe Grant had 15 and Daniel Soetan 14. Kavion Pippen led the starters with 15 points while Cameron Reedus scored nine in 11 minutes. Reedus did not return after taking a hard charge and freshman Jeffery Porter left with a knee injury but no starter played more than 19 minutes. "Just kind of the way we play," said Gene Bess, who coached his 1,600th game and picked up win No. 1,240. "We like to reward them for their work in practice and we've got some pretty good bigger guys who are not going to get any better unless they get playing experience. "Game like this is good for them." Said Parker, "It makes you work harder."
Three Rivers (9-0) was already up 9-0 before giving up a shot and scored the first 15 points before the Hawks (4-1) actually got one to the rim. "About the only way they scored the first 12, 14 minutes was free throws," Bess said. The Hawks shot 21.4 percent from the field, including 0-for-8 from 3-point range, and turned the ball over 27 times leading to 34 Raider points. The Raiders gave up a seasonbest 41 points and the 24 allowed in the first half were the fewest since giving up 23 against Lewis & Clark last November. Reedus opened the game with a 3 off a pass from Porter who then set up Ronnie Carson's 3 following a turnover. Porter's steal led to another 3 by Reedus at the 18:24 mark. The Hawks finally got off a shot but it was blocked by Porter and Pippen scored on the other end. Two free throws by Porter and another basket by Pippen put the Raiders up 15-0.
"I like the way our guys came out and had a high energy level," Bess said. "Of course we've been kind of doing that. We've been practicing pretty good the last three or four days. "Like to see us keep doing that and then doing it better." After 4 minutes, 13 seconds the Hawks finally got a shot to the basket. A pair of offensive rebounds led to free throws at the 15:09 mark by Dee'Quan Fleming, who led Malcolm X with 15 points. Reedus answered with a 3 off a crossing pass from Carson and Three Rivers pushed its lead to 21-2 on a dunk by Parker off a Soetan pass. Three Rivers forced 10 turnovers in the opening 7:11 when Grant took charge after the sophomore sank a catch-and-shoot 3 for a 25-6 lead. "I like the way our sophomores are drawing charges," Bess said. "They're a good example for the rest of the kids." The Hawks didn't have consecutive scoring possessions until the final three minutes of the half and were 7 of 31 from the field before the break.
The Raiders currently rank sixth in the nation for an opponent's field goal percentage (33.6) but 127th in points allowed per game (66.3). Three Rivers, meanwhile, didn't miss much on the other end. The Raiders hit 60.7 percent of their shots from the field, 6 points higher than their previous season high, and were a seasonbest 13 of 22 from 3-point range. Grant sank 5 of 8 from long range while Reedus was 3 of 5 and Saunders 2 of 3. "I can't question our shot selection," Bess said. "We played guys off the bench and they might have got in a hurry to shoot a few times. You've got to be able to work the ball and get it inside and be able to do a lot of things, but a 3 now and then can get you going too, spark you."
The Raiders led 62-24 at halftime and broke 100 with just over 3 minutes left for the first time since a seasonopening 100-72 win against Lincoln Trail. Three Rivers faces Dyersburg State (Tenn.) at 7 p.m. Friday and Midland (Texas) at the same time Saturday. Midland held off Dyersburg State 80-71 in the first game Thursday. "It's going to get tougher," Parker said, "but we're going to come out with the same intensity and keep playing hard and see what happens."