The Lady Raiders were fifth in the Region XVI standings at the beginning of February. Now they're second. Three Rivers College closed the regular season with five straight Region XVI wins and eclipsed formerly No. 2 Crowder with a 69- 67 win on Saturday at the Bess Activity Center. With both teams finishing 6-4 in the region and splitting against each other, the Raiders ultimately won the tiebreaker because of their season sweep over No. 4 seed Mineral Area, which Crowder split against. The win also gives the Raiders a first-round bye in the region tournament, and they will play the winner of Jefferson and Crowder in the semi-finals at 3 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. Crowder pieced together a pair of free throws and was up by two with 10 seconds left. After a Lady Raider timeout, Alex Kohler drove and scored to tie it up with five seconds left. After another timeout, Crowder got the ball at midcourt with Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk shouting "pancake" from the bench. He wanted the guards, essentially, to disrupt Crowder's screens. "You have to be really quick and have good anticipation skills," Walk said. DeNayia Holmes picked up the call and nodded.
"The play wasn't for me to go up, it was for us to actually switch, but we kinda did wrong and I was just happened to get the steal," Holmes said. The ref's count was down to the last second when Crowder inbounded the ball near midcourt and Holmes jumped the pass for the fastbreak. She took a hard foul on the shot and went to the line with the score tied and 1.5 seconds left. "I thought it was going to be an easier layup, but it ended up being kinda hard," said Holmes, who finished with 23 points, five rebounds, six assists and three steals. The third-year sophomore sank both, but was stoic as she thought ahead about picking up defensive responsibilities. Kahliya Murry then stole the 3/4 court inbounds pass as time expired. Holmes drew eight fouls and was 12 for 18 at the foul line. Lakeita Chappel added 12 points and Hailee Erickson got 10. While Murry, who didn't play Crowder the first time this season because of an injury, only had two points she a defensive force inside with eight rebounds and five blocks. The Lady Raiders matched a season low with 11 turnovers and were plus-11 in points off turnovers. With the win, Three Rivers has won 20 games in back-to-back seasons and in four of the past six years. In Walk's nine seasons at Three Rivers, he's won 20 games six times. "I can't say enough about the kids," Walk said. "Tremendous effort from the kids. Can't say enough for them." Three Rivers went 7-2 with five Region XVI wins to finish the season. It won three games by two points or less. This season, Three Rivers is 4-0 in games decided by one possession. "To do that with a bunch of freshman and (a few) kids back from last year's team is a tremendous testament to what these girls do every day in practice," Walk said. "Their will to win, how they approach the game, their unwillingness to give up until the final buzzer goes off." The biggest lead in the first half was five points. There were also five ties and two lead changes, but Crowder didn't trail after in the final 11 minutes and led by two going into halftime. Holmes then hit a 3 to open the second half to give the Lady Raiders their first lead since the game was four minutes old. Chappel followed with a bucket and the Lady Raiders built their own five point lead before Crowder took a timeout three minutes into the second half. After a Crowder bucket, Holmes spotted up for a 3 to put Three Rivers ahead 42-36, the biggest lead up to that point. Crowder, though, answered with a 13-2 run to close the quarter and lead by five going into the fourth. Crowder added one more to take a seven point lead before Markeia Porter drew a third foul against Crowder leading scorer Zahria White, sank a long 2, scored with a post move, and drew a charge in the span of 90 seconds. However, she then drew her fourth foul and went to the bench with Three Rivers down by three. The Lady Raiders cut the lead to a point with under five minutes left, but didn't take the lead and were down by three as the clock passed the minute mark, then Sawyers tied the game with a corner 3. White led Crowder with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Alex Vogt got 13 points and Tori Coulter had 11 points.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republican