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The Three Rivers Raiders are ranked 22nd in the first NJCAA midseason poll after not earning any votes in the preseason rankings.

The Raiders (12-1) opened the season with ten straight wins before a 65-63 loss to Midland on the final night of the Peoples Community Bank Thanksgiving Tournament at the Bess Activity Center.

Among their wins, they beat John A. Logan, which was No. 8 in the preseason poll but has fallen out of the rankings.

Region XVI rivals Moberly Area and Mineral Area, both undefeated, have respectively risen to No. 7 and No. 8 after being ranked 11th and 20th in the preseason.

Three Rivers coach Gene Bess broke the news of the rankings, released Tuesday, in practice and then emphasized that the Raiders were still the underdogs in their own region.

"He tells us it, but then makes us know it means nothing," sophomore Gabe Grant said.

The new No. 1 team is South Plains, followed by Hutchinson, Georgia Highlands, Northwest Florida State and Salt Lake.

The Raiders are scheduled to play the current No. 6 team, Tallahassee, on Dec. 29 at the Tallahassee Classic.

"We're focused on winning every game," Camron Reedus said. "Any loss can take that away, so we're just focused right now."

This is the third year in a row Three Rivers has had a one-loss record and been ranked when the first poll was released.

Three Rivers' holiday schedule was a land mine the past two seasons. Last season, Three Rivers was 2-3 in the month of December. The season before that, it went 2-5 between Nov. 29 and Jan. 3.

In both instances, the Raiders fell out of the rankings and never returned before losing to Moberly Area in the Region XVI tournament semifinals.

The Raiders have beaten Southwestern Illinois and Lewis & Clark since suffering their first loss and have four more games before starting Region XVI play at home against Mineral Area on Jan. 7.

"We'd be lying if we told you being ranked was not important. It is definitely important, just to have that recognition that you are one of the top teams in the country. That is something we need to bring every game, that chip on our shoulder. We've got something to prove," Grant said. "I feel that is going to give us extra motivation throughout the season. We're not just playing for Three Rivers. We're playing for the name and everything that comes with that."

The Lady Raiders (10-2) did not receive any votes in the new women's poll, which keeps preseason favorite Gulf Coast State as the No. 1 team.

State Fair, which was ranked 18th in the preseason, has fallen out of the rankings and Moberly Area (10-1) received votes in the new poll but was not ranked in the top-25.

 "Raiders enter poll at No. 22" Daily American Republic 08 Dec 2016: B1

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GODFREY, Ill. -- A day after cracking the NJCAA top 25 rankings, the Raiders overcame an early deficit and avoided a let down.

Three Rivers College led for nearly the entire second half, but never by double digits and held off Lewis & Clark to win 89-84 on Wednesday night.

The Raiders opened the second half with a layup by Camron Reedus and a 3 from Gabe Grant to take the lead for good.

Always close, Lewis & Clark was within two points with 2 minutes to go.

Kavion Pippen polished off a strong second half by finishing an assist from Reedus and Sadaeys Miller added a putback to make it six points with 40 seconds to go.

A 3 by Keontae Bridges cut the lead to one possession with 21 seconds left and then Grant turned it over.

After a timeout, Will Sides missed a 3 with 4 seconds to go and Grant blocked the putback try before KaJuan Christon sealed the game with a pair of free throws with 2 seconds left.

"It was one of those barn burners that went right to the wire and it could have gone either way. We played pretty well again down late," said Three Rivers coach Gene Bess, now with 1,243 wins over 47 seasons. "They came after us and I'm just glad we were able to retaliate later on in the game. They sure took it at us and were superior to us earlier in the game."

It was the second most points the Raiders (12-1) have allowed this season.

"Defensively, we had been told they were really hard to guard. They were good 1-on-1 and they kept beating us," Bess said. "Those guys were pretty good. You make a long trip up there, no fans, and it really tests you character."

Three Rivers was down 13-2 in the first few minutes and didn't take its first lead until it took the lead for good at the start of the second half.

It was part of a 23-2 run by the Raiders that closed the final 2 minutes of the half and then opened the first 3 of the second half.

Grant finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds after going 10 for 10 at the free-throw line. It was his second double-double of the season.

Reedus played 37 minutes and led the Raiders in scoring with 25 points. Pippen added 16 on 7 for 10 shooting to go with eight rebounds.

"Pippen had a good second half. He caught it and scored in there. That was probably as big a factor as anything," Bess said.

The Raiders shot 44 percent from the floor, 2 percent worse than Lewis & Clark (4-5), but went 24 for 28 on free throws as a team for seven extra points.

Three Rivers also had eight more offensive rebounds and was plus-9 on second-chance points.

"Raiders hold on to avoid letdown" Daily American Republic 08 Dec 2016: B1

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ST. LOUIS -- Black Friday, Christmas vacation plans, presents, families, finals. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas can be a minefield of distractions for the mostly teenaged Raiders, who tip-toed past the first of three hurdles Sunday.

The past two years, Three Rivers College has been a .500 team in games between Thanksgiving and Christmas and both times the stretch started with a two-point loss to Southwestern Illinois College.

Once again meeting in neutral territory at St. Louis Community College, SWIC didn't make a field goal in the final 4 minutes and Three Rivers won 65-59.

"I think that's about as good as we played. The last 4 minutes we really locked in and that's the way we are going to have to play to beat these better teams," said Three Rivers coach Gene Bess, now with 1,242 wins. "This is always a tough time of the year to get fired up and be ready to beat a good team."

The Blue Storm's final bucket was a layup by Darrin Jenkins with 4 1/2 minutes to play that cut the Raiders' lead to two.

Three Rivers (11-1) pushed it to five points with a free throw from Camron Reedus and a jumper by KaJuan Christon, but SWIC (5-5) added four free throws and reduced it to a point with 38 seconds left.

Reedus dished to Aidan Saunders for the final three of his 14 points and the Raiders called time to get in a defensive substitution in Christon and Mamadou Diakhaby.

The move worked.

Christon blocked Asante Patterson's jumper with 10 seconds to go and grabbed the ball.

Reedus drew the quick foul and set the final score with a pair of free throws, giving him 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Gabe Grant returned to the starting lineup after coming off the bench for three games and led the Raiders with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Sadaeys Miller also got his first start of the season and played 20 minutes.

"Sadaeys has really stepped up and put pressure on the opposing ball handler and he has done a good job in his role," Bess said. "Our defense starts with pressure on the ball and those two guys (Miller and Christon), when they do their job it helps us play better defense."

SWIC leaned on its starting five with heavy minutes. Three played more than 35 minutes and sixth man Luke Davis also played more than 30.

Four players got off the bench for less than 4 minutes and other than Davis, who played starters' minutes, the bench had five points.

"They had two really good players and then they had some players who blended in well. They were a nice team for their record," Bess said. "Those coaches up there are going to be tough to beat later on in the year."

Three Rivers got 25 points from its bench, led by Saunders' 14.

"Aidan has been picking us up offensively and he has been making improvements defensively," Bess said.

While Reedus and Grant both played more than 30 minutes, seven others got at least 15.

There were 12 ties and five lead with the biggest lead being six points.

Three Rivers scored the first five and then gave up a 12-2 run. It was the biggest deficit the Raiders would face all game and they tied it up inside 3 minutes thanks to a 3 from Reedus and a jumper by Saunders.

The Raiders retook the lead with 5 minutes left in the first half, lost it, and went into the break down by three.

They didn't go ahead for good until Daniel Soetan's free throws with 6 1/2 to play.

SWIC made to field goals after that, but kept close thanks to 90 percent fee-throw shooting.

"Raiders hold off Storm" Daily American Republic 06 Dec 2016: B1

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Enshrinement in Cape Girardeau: Three Rivers’ 1979 & 1992 juco national champions

By Kary Booher

The 1979 national champs

The 1979 national champs

They lived in an old dorm in downtown Poplar Bluff and, because they didn’t have a gym on campus, had to practice either at area high schools or at a state youth correctional facility.

And yet from those humble beginnings rose the 1979 Raiders of Three Rivers Community College, the school’s first men’s basketball team to win the juco national tournament.

Some 13 years later in 1992, Three Rivers won it all again, this time with – get this – seven players who went on to major NCAA Division I teams.

All in all, call them special, thrilling and full of excitement. And now call them members of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, which is proud to induct coach Gene Bess’ 1979 and 1992 NJCAA national tournament teams with the Class of 2016.

The teams will be honored during the Enshrinement in Cape Girardeau, set for a noon reception and 1 p.m. luncheon and ceremony on Sunday, November 6. (See ticket information below.)

“It was kind of like everything aligned at the right place and the right time,” said Thurlon “Sam” Weaver, the MVP of the 1979 National Junior College Athletics Association Tournament. “We had a pretty good team the year before, with Otto Porter (father of the NBA’s Otto Porter Jr.) and Danny Foster, and only two guys were coming back.”

The 1979 team included assistant coach Roger Pattillo, Don Brown, Mark Guethle, Robert Kirby, Sylvester James, Marvin “Moon” McCrary, Dale Purnell, Milton Woodley, Pat Niemcyzk, Chuck Johnson, Dwayne Walker, Wes Murray and manager Rick Alsup. Assistant coach Herb Slate had recruited McCrary, Kirby and Woodley out of the Memphis area.

three-rivers-1

“We only had seven or eight guys who played,” Bess said, noting injuries took a toll. “We had to dress two managers if we got into foul trouble. … And I remember going into that season, the newspaper in town predicted we were be right about .500. That was a motivator.”

The team finished 38-3, beating Mercer County 60-59 in overtime for the championship on Woodley’s free throws with 10 seconds left.

three-rivers-20

So many breaks fell the Raiders’ way that March. They scored a 109-103 double-overtime win in the semifinals against Western Texas, then guided by future Arkansas Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson and featuring future NBA standout Paul Pressey. McCrary’s 20-footer sent the game into a second OT after.

“That was 40 minutes of hell before ’40 Minutes of Hell’ came to Arkansas,” Weaver said.

Weaver’s own 20-footer sent the championship game into OT, where McCrary hit one of two free throws off a controversial technical foul – Mercer got whistled for installing a player not listed in the scorebook. That made it a 58-58 game, a point that proved significant just minutes later.

“We had great team chemistry and no selfishness,” McCrary said. “And we played defense. If you know anything about Coach Bess, you know you play defense before you play offense.”

Bess’ 1992 team finished 35-3 record and featured seven future NCAA Division I players: Anthony Beane (Kansas State), Justin Wimmer (Memphis), Shone Peck-Love (Alabama), Brian Blackburn (Arkansas State), Benjy Johnson (Idaho State), Belvis Noland (Kansas State), Brian Price (Mississippi State). Eric Schweain (D-II Northwest Missouri State) was the two-guard, and the team included Mario Beamon, Isaiah Hart, Todd Wulf, Thad Rancher, assistant Tom Barr and trainer Thomas Brundage.

The 1992 national champs

The 1992 national champs

The Raiders, who opened the season ranked No. 1, got blown out in their regular-season finale. “We just had our worst loss of the season,” Schweain said, “and I remember Coach Bess saying, ‘Some of you think you are tired. You are not tired. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I’m not tired. You will overcome adversity and get through this.’

“He was always great at putting things into perspective.”

In the national tournament, the Raiders beat Daytona Beach, Fla. (88-82), Sullivan, Ky. (102-99), Southern Idaho (76-74) and topped Butler County, Kan., 78-77 in the championship game.

In the semifinals, the Raiders rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit. At that point, Beane spoke up, saying, ‘Fellas, we’re going to win this game.’” That they did, thanks to scoring a number of 3-pointers to pull even just minutes into the second half.  In the championship game, Beane’s jumper was the game-winner before Wimmer sealed the win with a blocked shot.

It was a magical ride, to say the least.

“For whatever reason, we all ended up at Three Rivers,” Schweain said. “It was a great group of guys who came from different backgrounds. And we just blended together.”

………………………………………………..

Enshrinement in Cape Girardeau

What: Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2016

When: Noon reception & 1 p.m. luncheon & ceremony on Sunday, Nov. 6

Where: The Show Me Center, Cape Girardeau

Missouri Sports Legend: Three Rivers Community College basketball coach Gene Bess

Inductees: Blake Dewitt (Sikeston/Dodgers/Cubs/Braves), James Wilder(Sikeston/Mizzou/Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Mark Littell (Gideon/Royals/Cardinals), Eddie Moss (Poplar Bluff/Southeast Missouri State/St. Louis Football Cardinals), Dr. Rick Wright(Sikeston/Mizzou/St. Louis Blues), track standout Miles Smith (St. Louis/Southeast Missouri State), high school basketball coach Lennies McFerren (Charleston/New Madrid), softball coach Lana Richmond (Southeast Missouri State), soccer/basketball coach Brad Wittenborn (Notre Dame High School), high school football coach Bob Stolzer(Ste. Genevieve), Capahas semi-pro baseball program (Cape Girardeau), the Scott County Central High School boys and girls basketball programs (Sikeston), the Valle Catholic High School football program (St. Genevieve), and the 1979 and 1992 Three Rivers Community College men’s basketball teams (Poplar Bluff) that won NJCAA national championships.

President’s Award: Poplar Bluff attorney Joe Scott, a former Gainesville/Mizzou basketball standout

Tickets: Call 417-889-3100. An individual ticket is $125. A table of eight is $1,250 and includes autographed print of Coach Bess, an autographed print of the induction class as well as sponsorship recognition at the table and in the printed program. Numerous sponsorships are available, too, such as congratulatory ads.

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- After allowing both opponents to shoot better than 50 percent in their first preseason jamboree, the Raider defense cut that down to 41 percent overall Saturday.

Three Rivers beat Pratt Institute 48-40 and Des Moines Area Community College 46-34 at the Johnson County Jamboree in Overland Park, Kan.

"We were playing without three of our better players. We found some pretty good replacements and you've got to be able to do that," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "It was one of those trips you take to try and get better."

Kavion Pippen, Jeffery Porter and Daniel Soetan were all out with injuries, but back in practice Monday. Aidan Saunders started for the Raiders with the three out of the lineup, but then he hurt his elbow in Monday's practice. Bess said they should have most of the guys back for this weekend's jamboree.

Pratt went 2 for 9 on 3-pointers against the Raiders and shot 50 percent from everywhere else.

Camron Reedus and Gabe Grant each hit a trio of 3s for Three Rivers and the Raiders were 7 for 18 from beyond the arc, but 5 for 24 inside of it. Reedus led the team with 17 points and Grant had 12.

Grant and Terrence Parker each had six rebounds and Grant also led the Raiders with four of the team's seven steals.

Three Rivers improved its shooting against Des Moines. The Raiders were 4 for 13 on 3-pointers and 16 for 41 overall.

Reedus again led the tea with 13 points and Grant had 11. Parker had five blocks to go with four rebounds, three steals and four points.

"He played pretty well in the second game," Bess said of Parker.

Three Rivers hosts a jamboree Saturday at the Bess Activity Center. The Raiders will play Evangel at 10 a.m. and again at 3 p.m. against Freed Hardeman.

The Lady Raiders ended the weekend with a win by slowing down where as they managed to open the preseason with a win by speeding up.

Three Rivers, which beat Dyersburg State to open its preseason, lost to Lyon College and College of the Ozarks at The Courts Jamboree in Springfield, Mo., before beating Labette Community College.

Stats were not kept for any of the games.

"We're probably where we need to be," said Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk of the team's development so far in the preseason.

Three Rivers plays Saturday at the Mid America Showcase in Lawrence, Kan.

"Raiders find depth" Daily American Republic 18 Oct 2016: B3
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