Thursday night for all but four minutes of its game against Sunrise Christian Academy. Those four minutes would cost them another chance to win over a tough opponent. With under five minutes to go in the second half, Sunrise guard Shareef Mitchell scored two of his 21 points to cap an 8-0 run and put the Buffaloes ahead for the first time at 76-75. As usual, sophomore guard Tristan Jarrett had an answer. He made his defender fall to the ground with a crossover, took some time to admire his work and nailed a 3-pointer to give the Raiders the lead once again. Sunrise (11-3) responded with six straight points as the Three Rivers (6-8) defense struggled to get stops inside. "It was the same as the last game," Jarrett said, referencing Three Rivers' 98-93 overtime loss to No. 13 John A. Logan Tuesday.
"We didn't get stops. We couldn't make a bucket. They were getting the points and we weren't scoring. You're always going to lose games like that." Jarrett tried to conjure some heroics again. He sank a layup high off the glass, and on the next possession, he drilled a pull-up jumper at the free-throw line to tie the game with 36 seconds remaining. Mitchell wouldn't be denied, though. He went around a screen and banked home a floater with less than 15 seconds left, and guard Carlos Paez stole the ball on the ensuing possession to seal an 86-82 victory for Sunrise. "We just weren't fundamentally sound," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "We're missing a key piece or two in the situation. He had to play a player or two too long." Despite the loss, Jarrett continued his historic season for Three Rivers. He led all players with 37 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes. "I think we're probably asking too much of Tristan," Bess said. "He's having to do everything, but he's doing a good job leading. We're just going to have to get some more guys fundamentally sound enough to where we can finish games off." It was Jarrett's sixth time scoring 30 or more this season and his fifth double-double. Jarrett entered Thursday's game averaging 27.5 points per game. If he holds that pace, he'll finish with the highest points per game average in Three Rivers history. Latrell Sprewell set the record at 26.6 in in 1990. "I'll be tired sometimes, but I gotta do what I gotta do for the team," Jarrett said. Three Rivers led by as many as 10 points in the first half after a 23-13 start to the game. Freshman Aaron Tait pump faked and nailed a 3-pointer as his defender flew past him to put the Raiders ahead by double figures. "We start out the games hot, but we've gotta finish the games. We've gotta learn how to finish the games, play harder when you're tired and play smarter when you're tired," Jarrett said. The Buffaloes cut the lead to four points late in the half after Paez knocked down four straight free throws. Jarrett responded with two of his own before knocking down a pull-up triple with under five seconds left in the half, sending the Raiders to the locker room up by eight points. Jourdan Smith came out of the locker room on fire for the Buffaloes. He scored nine of his team's first 11 points to start the second half, bringing the visitors within two. The Raiders built the lead back up to seven with the help of 3s from Tait and redshirt sophomore Abiodun Ayetimiyi, but with just over 12 minutes to go in the game, Ayetimiyi clapped in the face of Paez after knocking the ball away from him and was issued a technical foul. Ayetimiyi sat out the rest of the game, and his defense was missed as the Buffaloes started getting penetration from Paez, who consistently dropped off passes to the open man for layups for 3s. "(Ayetimiyi) is our defensive ace," Bess said. "I'm really disappointed that he would do that. He's a great young man and he didn't mean to do anything like that, but that was big." Three Rivers has dropped three straight but will have one more chance to add a win before region play starts. After getting a four week break, the Raiders will face Southern Arkansas University Tech on the road at 3 p.m. Jan. 2 for their final game before region play starts. "We're getting better game by game, but we've gotta pick it up before it's too late," Jarrett said.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic