The Three Rivers Raiders were missing that spark in the first half. They found it about halfway through the second half Saturday night in a 77-55 victory over the Nation Wide Academy Bengals at the Bess Activity Center. The win stretched the Raiders' win streak to eight games. Three Rivers (9-2) began attacking the basket and drawing fouls, attempting its first free throws of the game with 11:11 left in the second half. Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said that his team lacked aggressiveness in the fi rst half. "They were playing zone, and we were just happy standing around and taking shots," Bess said. "We took the easy way out. We didn't make them guard us. They didn't have to foul us." Keiondre Jefferson made the Raiders' fi rst two free throws. Willie Lucas converted 1 of 2 foul shots, and Aidan Sanders made two more, pushing the Raiders' lead to 48-35 with 9:37 left in the game. Milak Parson followed with six straight points for the Bengals, but Three Rivers secured the win with a 16-4 run. Lucas made two 3-pointers during that stretch. Jeffery Porter made two free throws and a driving layup. Cameron Maddox dunked after a Nation Wide turnover, and Jefferson dunked and scored on a putback to give the Raiders a 66-47 lead. After struggling from 3-point range in the first half, the Raiders made a respectable 4 of 10 after halftime. Nation Wide committed 24 turnovers that the Raiders turned into 21 points. Three Rivers began sharing the ball more in the second half, accumulating 10 of its 15 assists after halftime.
Lucas led a balanced Three Rivers attack with 15 points, Jefferson had 13, Ludy Kayouloud had 12 and Sanders finished with 10. Deadre Williams paced Nation Wide with 17 points and 12 rebounds. The Raiders were cold from 3-point range in the first half, shooting only 1 of 14 but still managed a 31-27 halftime lead. "The first half, we looked like we were shooting it on the first or second pass. Nobody can win playing that way," Bess said. "When the ball's not going down like it was tonight, you better come prepared for a little ballhandling skills." Three Rivers stormed ahead 13-4 behind four points each by Kayouloud and Chis Stocks. After K'Lon Williams made a jumper to give Nation Wide a quick 2-0 lead, Kayouloud dunked after one of Nation Wide's 12 first-half turnovers. Charles Wilson put the Raiders ahead to stay with a layup following another turnover. Stocks' jumper extended the Raiders' lead to 6-2. Lucas made a 3-pointer for a 9-4 Three Rivers lead, Stocks had a steal and a basket on a goal-tending call, and Kayouloud had a tip-in for a 13-4 advantage. Nation Wide stayed close behind eight first half points by Williams and seven by Darnell Johnson. The Bengals closed the half on a 7-2 run fueled by their fastbreak. Three Rivers could have easily been behind at halftime because the Tigers went 5 of 13 from the free-throw line. The start of the game was delayed by 30 minutes with the visiting team arriving late. The Raiders conclude their pre-holiday scheduled against John A. Logan at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Carterville, Ill. The Volunteers were the last team to beat Three Rivers, winning 84-69 at the Bess Activity Center on Nov. 7.
Kyle Smith - Daily American Republic