Three Rivers will get a break from Region XVI play to try to win back some momentum after dropping its last three games.
To do so, the Raiders will have to beat Arkansas Baptist on the road, a team they split against a year ago.
This season, though, Arkansas Baptist enters the game with a 5-14 record in the midst of a six-game losing streak.
“The last few years, we haven’t fared well down there,” Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. “They have a really tough place to play. They’ll be packed in there. It’s not a very big place, but it’s one of those places where they generate a lot of enthusiasm and there’s a lot of electricity in the air when you play down there, so you’d better be ready to play.”
Bess knows his team needs to string together some wins to build momentum and stay in the race for the top spot in Region XVI. Through four games, the Raiders sit a game and a half behind Moberly Area for the top spot and half a game behind MSU-West Plains for second.
The Raiders dropped a game Sunday to MSU-West Plains after getting behind by 21 points in the second half and running out of time during their comeback bid that cut the lead down to six with under a minute to play.
“I’m hoping we play better defensively,” Bess said. “We just gave up too much easy stuff Sunday afternoon. We lost our concentration on defense a lot. And we actually made a good run on them at the end and then fizzled out. I think we got it down to six and just didn’t have enough in the tank to finish it off.”
Tristan Jarrett, the Raiders’ go-to scorer and the nation’s leader in scoring average, sat out the first five minutes of Sunday’s game after arriving late to practice during the week and tallied his lowest point total (11) since the second game of the season when he went scoreless in 13 minutes. Some other players stepped up to fill that void as much as they could.
Four other players scored in double figures, led by Miganeh Jama’s 16 points in 31 minutes, both of which were season-highs for him.
“It’s one of those situations where we need to all come together and everybody try to help everybody out and not worry so much about who scores the points,” Bess said. “I keep looking for Hayden (Sprenkel) to hit more than two or three 3s, and we like the way Tallon (Fonda) is playing. Several of the kids are pretty good shooters.”
Scoring wasn’t the issue in the game, though. The Raiders left Sunday with a minus-16 rebounding margin, much worse than their average of minus-5 for the season.
“We’ve got to get more rebounding out of our perimeter guys,” Bess said. “Yesterday, I think (Abiodun Ayetimiyi) got the first two rebounds and then Khalil (Johnson) got a couple of big rebounds. Our system is such that we shoot it pretty quick and it’s hard to rebound a lot of times because we’re not in position to rebound. But we need everybody to rebound and some of them, by nature, aren’t rebounders.”
Rebounding might not be as much of an issue for the Raiders against Arkansas Baptist. The Buffaloes tout a smaller than what the Raiders have been facing recently in their Region XVI games.
“It’s just going to come down to being able to guard them,” Bess said. “They are small and quick and can really get the ball to the basket. They try to beat you off the dribble, so it’s going to be a challenge for us to guard them.”
The Raiders will visit Arkansas Baptist for a 7 p.m. tip on Tuesday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic