Three Rivers created a nearly picture-perfect finish to its home opener after taking a while to pull away. The Lady Raiders exploded out of the locker room and went on a 28-3 run in the third quarter to blow open an eventual 87-67 win over Olney Central (Ill.) in their home opener at the Bess Activity Center. A 3-point basket from sophomore Kimberly Shaw, five points from freshman Katelyn South and six points from freshman Deanay Watson helped the Lady Raiders score the first 14 points of the second half on the way to a second straight rout to open the season. "Last thing we told them when they came out of the locker room is we want to own the first 3-5 minutes of the third quarter," coach Jeff Walk said. "We kind of came out and shellshocked them a little bit defensively and put a 14-0 run on them, forcing them into a timeout pretty quick. "That makes the ballgame a lot easier the rest of the way." A 14-3 run in the first half allowed the Lady Raiders to take control of a close game. They went to the locker room with a 40-27 lead before scoring 14 straight to start the third quarter.
Before the intermission, the Lady Raiders were shooting 50 percent from two-point range compared to 17 percent for Olney (0-1). Three Rivers went 13 of 26 from inside the 3-point line in the second half to finish at an even 50 percent. Sophomore Hailee Erickson tallied four of Three Rivers' 16 assists in the game as the Lady Raiders were finding open teammates inside and creating easy baskets with outlet passes in transition. "Everybody on the team can shoot, and nobody is selfish," Erickson said. "We like to share the ball. We like to help get other people going, so when one person is going, we'll get it to that person and make sure they keep going." A full-court press from the Lady Raiders forced Olney into 33 turnovers, 21 of which came in the first half, and those turnovers led to 31 points for the hosts. Three Rivers (2-0) made everything a struggle for the Lady Knights. Olney shot an abysmal 17 percent from inside the arc in the first half. The Lady Knights were able to build that to 38 percent by the end of the game. "I really like playing on our end as much as we can, and when they're not able to get into their offense and we're getting steals and layups, it makes our offense easier. It makes our offense easier, we shoot the ball better and it's just demoralizing after seven or eight different possessions they don't get across the half line." Freshman J'Kayla Fowler earned seven steals for Three Rivers. "With J'Kayla or Deanay at the top is like either they get their hand on the passes or the second can just steal the pass," South said. "It's not as much running up and down. We're just staying on our half and it's nice." Three Rivers was able to play its aggressive style of defense without fouling too often. The Lady Raiders committed seven fouls in the first half, and Olney didn't have a single trip to the free-throw line through two quarters. Five Lady Raiders finished the game in double figures. South paced the team with 16 points. Watson added 14, while both redshirt sophomore Casey Douglas and sophomore Hailee Erickson added 12 apiece. "I was a little nervous," South said. "We played here in the preseason against Williams Baptist, so it wasn't as nerve-racking as if we hadn't played here before." With versatility on the offense, Walk loves the embarrassment of riches he has available with his young group. "What that does for us is who you gonna guard?" Walk said. "Pick your poison. Which one are you going to leave open? Any one of those kids could be in double figures, and we had (freshman Hannah Thurmon) with eight (points), so it could've been six in double figures." With a team made up of eight freshmen, three of which are in the starting lineup, some nerves before the home opener could explain why it took roughly 15 minutes of game time to build a double figure lead. "We had one preseason game at home, and we did that in practice jerseys," Walk said. "This one, we had the real deal going. You never know what goes through a young girl's mind. The other thing is we're used to jumping out and putting 14-0 runs on people. We kind of expect that to happen and it seldom ever does."
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic