Lady Raiders 1 win away from national tournament

Lady Raiders 1 win away from national tournament

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - Three Rivers is one win away from the national tournament.

The Lady Raiders beat Jefferson 103-37 in the Region XVI semifinals Thursday at the Libla Family Sports Complex and will host Moberly Area for the region championship at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"It's one of those that the fans don't want to miss," Three Rivers coach Alex Wiggs said. "It's two top-14 teams in the nation coming together, and Raider fans get to watch it in their backyard."

The 10th-ranked Raiders have beaten the 14th-ranked Greyhounds three times this season by an average of eight points. The Greyhounds are the only team this year to play Three Rivers within 10 points and did so in both games at Moberly. In the lone matchup in Poplar Bluff, the Raiders won by 15.

The Region XVI winner this season will receive an automatic bid for the national tournament. It's the third straight year Three Rivers and Moberly Area will play for the region title.

The Raiders won two years ago, and in last year's final, the Greyhounds defeated the Raiders.

Three Rivers has gone to the national tournament three times, most recently in 2019.

The Raiders (20-0) beat Jefferson by at least 34 points in three regular-season games, but the Vikings (7-18) proved pesky in the semifinals.

Jefferson took the initial lead and held it for 5 minutes. Three Rivers was only ahead by two points in the final minute of the first quarter.

"We played well on defense, which has been our staple all year long," Wiggs said. "Offense, just shots weren't falling and missing some free throws. Finally, once everyone got their second wind, it looked like we were more relaxed."

Two hustle plays later, and the rout was on.

With Three Rivers pressing, Hya Haywood sped around a Viking and got her hand in the way of the inbounds pass. She chased down the loose ball before finding Chaylea Mosby for a 3.

Haywood started the second quarter by scoring through a foul but missed the free throw.

Mosby crossed the lane, grabbed the offensive rebound, and then passed to Abby Turner on the block for two.

With Turner's basket, the Raiders went from up by two to 10 in a minute.

"Everybody feeds off the energy. When people make hustle plays, everyone gets excited about it, and it's like a domino effect," Mosby said.

Three Rivers closed the first half with a 34-5 run that all started with a made free throw and Haywood's steal.

Kierra Thornton got a steal and a layup that put Three Rivers ahead by 20 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.

Haywood made a 3 late to send the Raiders into halftime with a 49-18 lead. Three Rivers led by as much as 66 in the second half.

Three Rivers finished with 36 points off 32 Jefferson turnovers.

Karlee Holland showed no rust after going 2 for 12 from the field in her first appearance of the season March 31.

The all-time leading scorer out of Licking High School, Holland made 3s in three straight possessions in the third quarter and finished with a team-high 16 points on 6 for 11 shooting and 4 for 6 on 3-pointers.

"I've been practicing a lot more, not so rusty," Holland said. "I have a lot more confidence than I did going in."

Holland's layup of a halfcourt pass from Autumn Dodd gave the Raiders 100 points for the fifth time this season.

"The team knows that (Holland) can really put the ball in the hole," Wiggs said. "You can tell just by the excitement, and how good of teammates they are and how good of a teammate she was when she was out, when she started making shots, they were going crazy. It says a lot about her as a person. "

Haywood and Mosby each had 14 points. Mosby also led the Raiders with eight rebounds.

Dodd added 12 points off the bench, and Myia Yelder got 10 points as everyone active scored at least two points.

Joi Montgomery and Gracie Price dressed but did not play Thursday after also being held out of the regular-season finale. With Holland returning, Thursday was the first game all season that Three Rivers dressed all 13 players. 

Montgomery started all 18 games before missing the regular-season finale and is averaging 8.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 steals. Price is averaging 1.2 points and 1.3 rebounds while averaging 6.1 minutes off the bench.

Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic