After a blowout win to open the season, the Three Rivers College women's basketball team faced and dealt with a much more challenging team Saturday and showed some moxy. The Raiders had a doubledigit lead reduced to one possession twice, but kept the lead and beat Olney Central (Ill.) 79-60 at the Bess Activity Center. "We showed the moxy of a seasoned club," Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk said. "They kept going and doing what they were supposed to do. I thought they never looked at the scoreboard to see how close it was. They just kept playing, it didn't affect them. Hopefully we can keep doing that. Starting four freshman and playing a one year kid, that's hard to do." Walk and assistant coach Alex Wiggs were worried before the game about how a young team with four returning players that also starts four freshman would handle the mental challenge of going from a 62-point win over a JV team, to a Region XXIV opponent.
"We knew they could play, we knew the offense they were running was going to give us trouble," Walk said of Olney Central. "We knew they had good guards. We felt like our inside game was going to be really good and it was. We didn't know how well we would handle guarding them on the half court." Sydni Williams and Lakeita Chappel had double-doubles to anchor that inside game and the Lady Raiders out-rebounded Olney 50-34. Williams finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds while Chappel, who led the Raiders in scoring, had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Hailee Erickson added 11 points after sinking a trio of 3-pointers. Three Rivers had four players score in double figures after scoring 103 points in its season opener against Lindenwood-Belleville JV, demonstrating the balanced offense of this year's squad. "They are all quick learners," said DeNayia Holmes, a third-year sophomore and the lone non-freshman starter. "I feel like they are more mature than a freshman team. I know we've got mostly freshmen, and seeing them come in their first week, it felt like it was going to be difficult, but we're learning a lot of things quicker than normal." Three Rivers held Central to 36 percent shooting and 33 percent on 3-pointers. The Lady Raiders, meanwhile, shot 42 percent overall and 36 percent on 3s. Tied at 6-all, the only tie in the game, Three Rivers (2-0) took its first double digit lead with an 11-point run that was bookended by 3-pointers from Kahliya Murry and Catera Sawyers. The Lady Knights steadily cut into the lead and got within two points midway through the second quarter. Alex Kohler sank a 3 for the Raiders, Casey Douglas followed with a bucket and Chappel added a secondchance 3-pointer to rebuild a 10-point lead. Olney countered and cut the lead to five. With 2 minutes left in the first half, Williams scored and Douglas added four points in the final minute to put Three Rivers ahead by 11 at the break. That lead evaporated in the first 2 minutes of the third quarter after Central opened the second half with a 13-4 run to get within one possession. Like before, Three Rivers found its form at just the right time and kept its lead. Douglas' jumper with 30 seconds left in the third quarter put Three Rivers up by 10 heading into the final frame. "We just kept on talking. What we figured out we need to do is keep communicating," Holmes said. "We just kept a positive attitude, kept the effort there, the hustle, not giving up on defense. We knew that we had to pick up our defense in order to help us on offense." Erickson hit back-toback 3s early in the fourth quarter and on the next possession, added two free throws to push the Lady Raider lead to 15. The Lady Raiders led by as much as 22 points in the fourth quarter. "Casey Douglas came off the bench and gave us a pretty good spark. There were several kids who came in throughout the ball game and did some things, whether it was sustain a lead or get us going again. Just a good overall team effort," Walk said. "We're not getting our heads down when we screw up. We keep playing. Even last year, as good as what we were, they would get their heads down. That's all coming from the kids. That's nothing that coach (Wiggs) or I have instilled in them. That's something they brought from high school."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic