With Saturday's loss, the Raiders now need to reach the national tournament to avoid the first losing season in coach Gene Bess' 48 years at Three Rivers. Three Rivers lost to Mineral Area 74-72 on Saturday at the Bess Activity Center, putting them six games under .500. Should Three Rivers win the Region XVI Tournament, it would enter the district championship with a .500 record. "We're not going to give up," Bess said. "We should have worked a lot of (our problems) out earlier." Should the Raiders lose another regular season game, they could theoretically reach the national tournament and still fi nish with a losing record. For Bess, who has always measured reaching the national tournament as his bar of success, that scenario would still be considered a great season. "A lot of blessings come in disguises," Three Rivers guard Chris Stocks said of fi nishing with a 1-7 region record. "We're real close and we've had a lot to overcome this year." The Cardinals (21-7, 4-3 Region XVI) took the lead just inside the 10-minute mark and then added a 3-pointer a couple minutes later, but the Raiders sank 3 near the fi ve minute mark to go ahead by two. Two minutes later, Stocks swished a corner 3 to put the Raiders (11-16, 1-7) up by five. The Cardinals scored a fourth try putback at the other end and the Raiders immediately subbed in some rebounding help in Ludy Kayouloud and Keiondre Jefferson. After a Raider miss, Jamie Ahale sank a 3 from the top of the key to tie the game at 66 all.
Jefferson then caught a pass under the basket and finished to put the Raiders ahead with 2 minutes left. The Cardinals tied it up with a dunk, and then the Raiders had a passing miscommunication and Maurice Edwards scooped up the loose ball near midcourt for an easy layup and the lead with a minute to go. Jefferson drove and drew a quick foul and made both free throws to tie it up again. After a Raider turnover, Edwards finished a layup at the rim to put the Cardinals ahead 72-70 with 20 seconds left. With the shot clock off, Chucky Wilson got the ball with 7 seconds left and drove to the basket. His shot was blocked and the ball bounced out of bounds, last touched by Mineral Area, with 1.1 seconds left. After dueling timeouts, Jeffery Porter inbounded the ball to Wilson deep, and his 30-footer missed everything as the clock expired. "We were trying to get somebody open," said Bess, who stacked the Raiders and tried to use a high screen to get an open shot near the basket. "There was a lot of bodies they had to go through and they didn't get the job done." Stocks fi nished 8 for 9 shooting for 17 points to lead the Raiders. "Stocks got to the basket on about four big layups," Bess said. "I think he got beat one time (defensively) … he played better than just about anybody we have." Added Stocks, "There is always more you can do as an individual." Fellow Poplar Bluff alum Willie Lucas was 5 for 7 shooting and 3 for 5 on 3-pointers for 15 points. Porter was also in double figures with 11 points to go with his assists and fi ve rebounds. The Raiders grabbed 12 fewer rebounds and six fewer offensive rebounds but only fi nished minus-3 on second-chance points.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic