Opportunity came knocking for the Raiders with around seven minutes left in Saturday's game at Missouri State-West Plains.
Moments later, it was gone.
Three Rivers had trimmed what was once a 16-point lead in the second half to three points, but Eric Lovett had the answer for the Grizzlies.
He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to help West Plains weather a 16-3 run by the Raiders and answer with a 10-2 spurt of their own as the Grizzlies won an offensive shootout 114-101, handing Three Rivers its fifth consecutive Region XVI loss.
Lovett went off for 20 of his 29 points in the second half to lead West Plains.
"I think when our guys really get humbled. When everybody — including the bench — gets involved, we can guard a little bit. We got back within one or three, whatever it was, and then it looks like we're back to the same old thing, see who can shoot it the quickest. We got away from being a team and into too much individuality," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said.
Three Rivers (10-16, 2-5 Region XVI) found itself in a 14-point hole at the half trailed 85-69 before getting on its big run to start chipping away at the lead. Miganeh Jama gave the Raiders life with seven straight points. He buried a jump shot before sinking a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. After Tristan Jarrett came away with a steal, he dished to Jama who finished off the sequence with an easy basket in transition.
Jarrett continued his historic season for the Raiders. His 33 points gives him 12 games of 30 or more points this season. His 29 points per game average is on pace to become the new single-season record for Three Rivers.
Jarrett also played a big role in the comeback effort with a few much-needed baskets for the Raiders. With Three Rivers trailing by 13 points, Jarrett picked up where Jama left off with a drive to the basket for two. He followed up with a triple from the top of the key for another three, then dished to Jama for a 3-pointer as the redshirt freshman from Montreal got in on the action once again. Tallon Fonda capped the run with a dunk that brought the Raiders within three points.
The Grizzlies (18-8, 4-1 Region XVI) called a timeout and quickly regrouped as Lovett decided to take over.
West Plains initially built the double-digit lead with a huge spark from Johde Campbell. He came off the bench to hit five 3-pointers, including two in a row moments after entering the game to put the Grizzlies up by seven points in what was previously a back-to-back battle.
"I'm hoping a game like tonight might cause the light to come on and make them start realizing they need to do their thing and help other people do their thing and that everybody needs to be playing hard and playing together," Bess said.
Hayden Sprenkel tried to match him with a 3 of his own, but Campbell answered with a third to help West Plains keep Three Rivers at an arm's length. Campbell finished with 17 points. D'Andre Vilmar put the Grizzlies up by double figures for the first time with a dunk and a 3-pointer back-to-back.
"We're not the most talented team in the world. We're short a post man; we're short a point guard, but if we just decide to play together and everybody would just pick up after each other, it's kind of our lack of maturity that is keeping us from really getting anything done."
The Raiders will get a trip back home to try to regroup. They'll host Arkansas Baptist at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic