Forgive the Raiders if they overlooked Southeastern Illinois a little bit. Three Rivers College starts its Region XVI schedule at home Saturday against undefeated and currently No. 6 ranked Mineral Area, who is also getting a No. 1 vote. The Raiders played spotty Wednesday, but still beat Southeastern Illinois 89-66 at the Bess Activity Center, thanks in no small part to strong performances from Camron Reedus and Daniel Soetan. "We didn't rebound, which has not been too unusual for us this year. I guess we overlooked them," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "I knew they were a pretty talented team and I knew it was going to be a challenge for us to guard them and we really didn't." Reedus led the offense for the third straight game with 27 points on 9 for 14 shooting, including 6 for 10 on 3-pointers. The sophomore guard had a career high 31 points in the Raiders' 13-point win over Pensacola State on Friday and 28 points the day prior against Tallahassee.
Reedus, who is averaging about 19 points a game, credits the scoring surge to extra time in the gym over the Christmas break. Back home with family and with finals over and done with, Reedus found time for a few extra hours every day in the gym and also worked with his AAU trainer and old high school coach to stay sharp. "We work hard here all the time, but I still have to balance school with everything. When I was home, it was all ball and family, so I had a little more time to get in the gym," Reedus said. In the three games since, he has shot 48 percent from the floor, 52 percent on 3-pointers, and 79 percent on free throws. He also had five rebounds and four steals against Southeastern Illinois (2- 11), which has lost nine in a row. Soetan added 15 points and eight rebounds, second for the Raiders in both categories, and gave the offense a burst in the opening minutes. In his first start for Three Rivers (14-3), the long-limbed freshman scored seven of the team's first 12 points, including a reverse layup off a baseline drive, and Reedus had the other five. "He played really well early, then he got to thinking too much. He's inexperienced, but he's pretty talented for a freshman," Bess said. Soetan, who is averaging about 6 points and 3 rebounds, set season highs Wednesday in points, field goals made, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, and minutes played.
"My teammates have been waiting on me to play like this for a while," Soetan said. "I've been gaining the confidence over these past few games. I knew I'd have a breakout game sooner or later. I was due for one." His stat line might have been better had he not gotten in his own head late in the first half. "Sometimes I get in my own head and it messes with my confidence. Over the past few practices, my teammates have been giving me the confidence I need and I've been playing well," Soetan said. Reedus' pull-up jumper 4 minutes in put the Raiders ahead for good and they were up by double digits midway through the first half. Southeastern, which played six players, never got within seven points after that.
The Raiders pressed in an effort to wear down the short-benched Falcons and forced 21 turnovers for 22 points, a plus-16 advantage. "I'm glad we were able to run ol' jackhammer (press) a little bit tonight. It was pretty effective. We've got to get better on the defensive end of the court, especially with our man-to-man," said Bess, who thought the defense needs to improve to be ready for Mineral Area. "Our defensive players are just going to have to suck it up. They played really good the second game down in Tallahassee and we shut people down there. That's what we've got to get better at between now and Saturday." Southeastern had five points off its bench as Three Rivers led by as much as 26 points late. Gabe Grant added 12 points for the Raiders after going 8 for 8 on free throws. Sadaeys Miller got nine rebounds, more than doubling his previous best of four. He also had four of the Raiders' 16 offensive rebounds to lead the team in both categories. "It's a matter now of us regrouping and getting ready because Mineral Area is really good," said Bess who won his 1,245th game. "I don't think it will be that much fun for the next three days. We knew we were going to play them before the season started, we've just got to get better prepared than we were (Wednesday) to compete."