The Raiders dunked it seven times. Three Rivers shot 50 percent from the field and got to the basket consistently as it beat West Kentucky CTC 106-78 at the Bess Activity Center. "Coming off not playing so well the last few games, this was a good one. Maybe we got a little more focused. They are going to have to be focused when (Arkansas Baptist) comes in here (Thursday)," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "We needed a game like this." The Raiders also missed three dunks, one of which nearly hit the ceiling. In the second half, Keiondre Jefferson sprinted down court on a fast break. The 6-foot, 7-inch guard didn't slow down as he leapt, reached way back and brought the ball down so hard that it hit the back rim, flew some 30 feet into the air and landed on the top side of one of the ceiling lights before eventually falling back to earth. "I just watched it go up. I knew Coach Gene was going to take me out so I went on and went with. But I got back in and played harder," Jefferson said. "He said if anybody missed a dunk, we were coming out. "I thought he was going to try and jump, that's why I tried to dunk it so hard." It was one of only three misses by Jefferson, who was 7 for 10 shooting for 17 points to go with six rebounds. Seven of the 10 active Raiders finished in double figures. Aidan Saunders came off the bench to lead the team with 19 points after going 6 for 6 on free throws. Willie Lucas, who played 28 minutes, the second most he has all season, was 6 for 10 on 3-pointers and fi nished with 18 points and five rebounds. "Since we got Willie back, we have more shooters. To have Willie back is helping us. When we are driving or getting to the rim, we can kick it out and he is there for us," Jefferson said. Jeffery Porter was close to a triple-double with 13 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Corey Bowen had 12 points and nine rebounds while Chris Stocks had 11 points and Chucky Wilson had 10. But Three Rivers also put up numbers in its 117-109 win at West Kentucky in early December. In the rematch, the Raider defense held West Kentucky to 6 percent less shooting and 8 percent less on 3-point shooting. The Stars, who were missing two starters who combined for 59 points the last time they played Three Rivers, also made 11 fewer free throws. "That's a pretty good defensive effort," Bess said. "I thought we did a better job of getting into the ball. We are having a hard time of getting our guys to get into the really good 3-point shooters.
"They'll hit a big 3 and they'll turn around and look like, 'He's way too far out.' No … if a guy can shoot from 35, you better guard him from 35," Bess added. "What we are really trying to get them to do is put the ball on the floor. They can't shoot 3s if you make them dribble." The Raiders led by 12 at halftime and West Kentucky cut it to seven early in the second half. After a Three Rivers timeout, the Raiders scored 15 straight with buckets from six different players. Wilson was the only Raiders with two baskets in the run after he got back-toback layups in the span of 20 seconds. A few minutes later, Bowen and Saunders had back-to-back dunks that put Three Rivers ahead by 24 with 12 minutes remaining. The Raiders led by as much as 32. "We rotated a lot. Our help defense was better and we sprinted back in transition D," Jefferson said. It is the first time since Jan. 23 against Arkansas Baptist, whom the Raiders host on Thursday, that Three Rivers shot 50 percent or better as a team. It is also the first game in a slate where the Raiders will play three games in five days, culminating with a home game against Mineral Area, the Raiders' final Region XVI game of the regular season. After this week, the Raiders travel to Lincoln Trail on Feb. 19 and host On Point Academy on Feb. 24 before the Region XVI Tournament starts at the end of the month. "Everybody talks about, don't play back to back or don't play three in three days or five days. If you got to the national tournament, you better be good enough to play," Bess said. "We've had amazing success when we've gone to much mainly because we are able to play three in three days. We'll play three games in our Thanksgiving tournament and we are always at our best in the third game. I think we are going to play our best Saturday night (against Mineral Area)."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic