The Lady Raiders began their season Thursday night and did so in dominant fashion. Five players scored in double figures — led by redshirt freshman Deanay Watson's 30 points on 14 of 16 shooting in 24 minutes — as Three Rivers blitzed Arkansas State Mid South in a wire-to-wire 100-64 win, scoring the first seven points of the game. Watson added 10 rebounds to post a double-double. "(Watson) can just outrun anybody down the field … and she'd just beat people down there and we'd throw it too her. It didn't get much easier than that," head coach Jeff Walk said. Three Rivers touts a smaller lineup and wanted to put emphasis on spreading the floor and playing fast. Instead, bully ball was a focal point for the Lady Raiders, who scored 62 points in the paint and shot just under 64 percent from inside the arc. "We got a lot of high-low action going with (freshman Hannah Thurmon) to Deanay. Deanay scored a bunch right there around the basket in the third quarter when we switched the offense," Walk said. The 3-point percentages were low at 28 percent as a team, but second-half adjustments allowed Three Rivers to pull away. In the first half, the Lady Raiders made four 3's on 20 attempts. In the second half, they made four again but shot just eight from beyond the arc. The team shot a red-hot 72 percent from 2-point range in the second half.
Those adjustments allowed the Lady Raiders to outscore the Lady Greyhounds 52-29 in the second half. The Lady Raiders blew the game open at the beginning of the third quarter with a 10-0 run right off the bat, sparked by three layups from Watson, and a bucket each from freshman guard Jordan Little and Kim Shaw, who fi nished with eight points and a team-leading seven steals. "We were on pace to shoot 40 (3-pointers). I said 20 is where we need to be during the game," Walk said. "In the fi rst half, we were taking a lot of one-pass 3's not in the fl ow of the offense. That got better in the second half." It got noticeably better. With a 13-point lead at 64- 51 with 2:15 left in the third quarter, Three Rivers more than doubled its lead with a 17-3 run, the biggest run of the game by either side. A free throw from freshman Katelyn South and a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Hailee Erickson got the run started. A jumper from Thurmon capped it with 6:01 left in the game. The Lady Raiders crossed the century mark when redshirt sophomore Casey Douglas scored a on a putback after pulling down an offensive rebound with fi ve seconds remaining. The basket gave Three Rivers 100 points in a season opener for the third straight season. Both teams committed at least 30 turnovers, but Three Rivers scored points in bunches after forcing them. The Lady Raiders scored 44 points off turnovers to 18 for Arkansas State Mid South. A lot of those points came after Three Rivers got steals in their own half of the court. "We got the majority of those steals on our end, if not at the half line, so when you're playing on your end the majority of the night, it just makes it easy early on," Walk said. The team's talented group of freshman got a chance to show off their potential as well. Thurmon fi lled the stat sheet with 10 points, seven rebounds and a team-leading eight assists with no turnovers. Freshman J'Kayla Fowler didn't miss a shot from the fl oor. She tallied 13 points on 5 for 5 shooting in 17 minutes. Little fi nished second in scoring with 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting. "We didn't have deer in the headlights last night," Walk said. "We came to play." Erickson added 12 points and nine rebounds. Unselfi sh play from the Lady Raiders helped rack up 31 assists in the game. "The unselfi sh play this early in the season is awesome," Walk said. "The kids like to play with one another, and they're kind of fi guring out where everybody is going to be now on offense, and those passes that were going in the stands are now landing in our hands and we're making shots, so it was kind of fun to watch last night." The Lady Raiders fi nished the night at plus-14 in the rebounding department, pulling down 53 total. "These kids just have a knack for knowing where the ball is going to come off on shots, and they have the ability to go get them," Walk said. Three Rivers will play its home opener against Olney at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Peoples Community Bank Classic.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic