PARK HILLS, Mo. — After leading throughout the first half, Three Rivers College lost it immediately to start the second Saturday night in the Region XVI opener. Mineral Area came out swinging after halftime with a 13-2 run in less than 2 minutes, giving the host Cardinals a 20-2 run going back to the 2 1/2-minute mark of the fi rst half. "They just hit three big 3s," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said after losing 82-69 to Mineral Area. "We're pretty young, we're pretty inexperienced," Bess added. "I have rarely ever used that in my 62 years of coaching. I don't believe in it and I don't think as a junior college coach you can say 'wait till next year.' It's wait till next game. You can't wait." The Raiders stopped the run, but for the first time in the game, momentum wasn't wildly swinging back and forth. Three Rivers was still down 10 points with 11 minutes left. Aidan Saunders, who led Three Rivers with 16 points, then sank a 3 and Three Rivers cut the lead in half with more than nine minutes to play. Keiondre Jefferson then put back his own miss to cut it to four. With four minutes left, another 3 by Saunders whittled the deficit down to three points. The Cardinals, though, pushed the lead back to eight points with a little less than three minutes to play, and Three Rivers didn't get within six points down the stretch. "We were doing pretty well and then they got the ball to the basket, hit a big 3, and got the ball to the basket two, three times. We were gambling and that was a thing we probably shouldn't have been doing," Bess said.
"Players sometime get in a hurry. We took some shots and didn't make them and we didn't get second shots." Jefferson finished with 12 points for the Raiders, while Cameron Maddox and Willie Lucas each had 10. Jeffery Porter had 10 rebounds to lead Three Rivers. "The big problem we have, we are not a big rebounding team. We haven't been from the beginning," Bess said Maurice Edwards came off the bench to lead Mineral Area with 24 points on 8-for-15 shooting and 8 for 10 at the foul line. Three Rivers was outrebounded 54-33 and had half as many offensive rebounds, which has been a trouble spot for the team all season. Mineral Area was plus-10 on second-chance points. "I like our two big men, but we need two more like them. Porter is about the only rebounder we've got and he is 5-11," Bess said. "For us to beat the good teams, we are not going to shoot as well as we did the first half, most games. When you don't shoot well you better be able to rebound." Three Rivers shot 15 for 33 (45.4 percent) in the first half and 9 for 30 (30 percent) in the second half. Partially due to three forfeits, Three Rivers has now lost eight games. The same number of losses it fi nished with in each of the past three seasons. Three Rivers last lost 10 or more games in 2013-14, when it finished 16-13. Bess has never finished with a losing record at Three Rivers, which went 15-15 in 2012-13 while dealing with self-imposed sanctions. The Raiders were 9-3 heading into the Christmas break when they learned they had to forfeit wins against Lang Prep, Hocking and Southwestern Illinois after playing an ineligible walk-on player, who did not return to the team after the break. Twice in the first half, the Raiders built a decent lead only to have Mineral Area wipe it out. "That was an improvement over how we have been playing, so I kind of enjoyed it," Bess said. "We've got some guys that are explosive and they can do some good things when the ball is going down. But when they really have to buckle down, that is something that we have to get better at." Three Rivers took its first 10-point lead after about 10 minutes. Maddox sank a 3 to complete the initial burst. A minute later, Chucky Wilson made another 3 to put Three Rivers ahead by 15, the team's biggest lead of the game. The Cardinals countered with a 3 and cut the lead down to three points over the next five minutes. It was a 16-4 run by Mineral Area that erased an 11-point run by Three Rivers, but then Three Rivers put together a nine-point run and was back up by 12 with 2 1/2 minutes left. In the second Raider run, Jefferson scored twice with Maddox sinking a 3 in between his buckets. Roman Young got things going again for Mineral Area with a 3, and the Cardinals went on their 20-2 run that stretched into the second half.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic