WEST PLAINS, Mo. — Three Rivers beat MSU West Plains twice by three points last season. The Grizzlies returned the favor with a point to spare. Three Rivers was down most of the second half but cut West Plains' lead to two points late. The Grizzlies' made two crucial free throws and held on to beat the Raiders 102-98 on West Plains' homecoming night. "I thought we came out and played as hard as we've played all year. We had an excellent scouting report. These two assistant coaches I've got really get our teams prepared," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. Around the 10-minute mark of the second half, Three Rivers forwards Corey Bowen and Keiondre Jefferson picked up their fourth fouls, leaving Ludy Kayouloud as the only Raider big man left. Radshad Davis, who led the Grizzlies with 33 points, scored a threepoint play, picking up a foul against Aidan Saunders and the Raiders' eighth team foul, to give the Grizzlies the first double-digit lead of the night.
Right after that, Davis threw down a dunk that brought a roar from the homecoming crowd and had the Raiders calling a timeout. With under five minutes to go, Saunders made a pair of free throws that cut the lead to seven points. The lead wobbled back and forth until Saunders sank a 3 with 20 seconds left to cut the lead to two points. With 12 seconds left, the Grizzlies inbounded from under their own basket and the Raiders fouled Ricky Torres, the Grizzlies' leading scorer for the season and 70 percent free-throw shooter, and he made both. Chucky Wilson, who had 23 points, raced up the floor and missed a 3 and the Grizzlies grabbed the rebound as time expired. Three Rivers (7-11, 0-4 Region XVI) has now lost six of seven going back to Dec. 12. All six losses were on the road. Three Rivers, which is 5-3 at home this season, plays nine of its final 11 games of the regular season at home. Its only remaining away games are Tuesday at Arkansas Baptist and Feb. 19 at Lincoln Trial. The Raiders, who had eight players available against West Plains, will host Moberly Area on Saturday in what will be their second home game and fi rst Saturday night home game since Dec. 9. "We've had a tough season up to this point, but I like the way we played tonight and I think the players are challenged every time we go out there. I want to see them at their best at the end of the season because everybody in the region is good," Bess said. The Grizzlies (20-3, 2-0) had little answer for Saunders, who matched his season high of 29 points. Saunders, who is averaging 17.5 points this season as the Raiders' leading scorer, was 10 for 22 with four rebounds off the bench. "He was really ready to play. He came to play and the other guys kind of fed off of him. He was able to get to the basket early and often. I just thought he had a good game and (Jeffery) Porter played really well. Wilson got the basket good, too," Bess said. West Plains didn't make a 3-pointer in the fi rst half. The Grizzlies finished 2 for 16 on 3-pointers in the entire game for their worst outside shooting game of the season. They are averaging more than fi ve made 3-pointers and more than 15 attempts per game, and have made at least three in every game this season. Despite the poor shooting from outside, the Grizzlies shot 54 percent from the fi eld. They are shooting 53.8 percent for the season, which is sixth in the country. Three Rivers shot 51.4 percent in the game and 5 for 18 on 3-pointers. Three Rivers led by as much as seven in the fi rst half after Wilson sank an NBA 3 to put the Raiders ahead 23-16. A frenetic back-and-forth pace with a couple blocks soon followed and Wilson fi nished the crazy run with a dunk. Niekie Thomas scored a three-point play after making a fl oater from eight feet that put up by three with three seconds left. But the half still ended on a Raider note when Saunders caught the ball and drove all the way to the hoop for a layup at the buzzer. Porter, who had 16 points, gave the Raiders the lead on the first bucket of the second half. After some rally scoring, the Grizzlies put together enough of a run to go ahead by seven points. Wilson scored a quick layup for the Raiders, who also called a timeout after the bucket. A little later, the Grizzlies made their fi rst 3-pointer of the game to go ahead by nine. The Raiders scored quick, got a turnover and another quick basket to instantly get the lead back to five points, but it took them almost the rest of the game to get within one possession.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic