Three Rivers wrapped up its second weekend of preseason action with some improvements on both the stat sheet and the scoreboard. Turnovers were down and assist totals were up as the Raiders fared well in their first two games of the Evangel Jamboree. “We made a little progress,” coach Gene Bess said. “I think it’s going to be one of those teams that gets better every day in practice, and I think that’s going to be the key to our season.” In its fi rst game against Evangel, Three Rivers lost the first half 29-35 but rebounded to win the second half 42- 36. The Raiders found some balance in their scoring output with three double-figure scorers, led by redshirt freshman Miganeh Jama with 14. Sophomore guard Tristan Jarrett distributed the ball for the offense on his way to seven of the team’s 12 assists. The Achilles heel of the team’s performance was foul trouble. The Raiders racked up 23 fouls, which led to a 28-for32 line from the charity stripe for Evangel. “I think more than anything, we just haven’t committed to the defensive end of the court,” Bess said. “We just kind of show up on each play and we’re not aggressive. Good defense requires a little extra effort or else you’re going to foul too much. This is kind of where we’re at right now. We’re just kind of going through the motions.”
A game against College of the Ozarks followed, and the Raiders struggled to get momentum going. Three Rivers shot 25 percent from behind the arc on an 8 for 32 clip, while the assist numbers dropped to eight total for the team. Those numbers along with 14 turnovers and a 57 percent shooting performance by College of the Ozarks led to a 40-27 defeat in the first half and a 42-25 loss in the second. Sophomore Poplar Bluff native Willie Lucas led the team with 14 points, while Jarrett added 13. One glaring issue Bess sees so far is his team’s consistency on the glass. “I think the biggest problem is we’re not rebounding,” Bess said. “Players don’t have a lot of confidence in their shot when you don’t rebound the misses. We rarely get a rebound on a missed shot, and it’s hard to compete against really good teams when you’re not rebounding your missed shots.” The Raiders have won the rebounding differential in two of their six preseason games. Three Rivers’ final outing against Williams Baptist saw improvements much like the first matchup against Evangel. Although they were minus 3 in the scoring margin, losing the first half 41-26 before bouncing back and winning the second half 46-34, there were a lot of positives. The Raiders were one ahead on the turnover margin, finishing with 11 and tying their lowest number in any of their six preseason games. Assist totals were back up, reaching a preseason high of 14, led by Jarrett’s four. Lucas led the way in scoring as the only player in double figures with 10 points, but five other players reached at least eight. Three Rivers will host its home jamboree on Saturday, then finish the preseason at the Midwest Jamboree in Carbondale, IL on Sunday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic