Before Friday's season opener, Three Rivers men's basketball coach Gene Bess told the Raiders about how basketball is a simple game. You get better shots and more shots, he told them, and you keep the other team from getting good shots and don't let them get second shots. The Raiders simply didn't do any of that and lost to No. 13 Tallahassee (Fla.) 80-65 at the Bess Activity Center. "I was very concerned coming into the game. If we would have just rebounded a little better and played a little harder we could have competed, but we didn't actually compete tonight," Bess said. "We've got a lot of work ahead of us. It was a tough leadoff game for the season, so we have to regroup." Tallahassee took six more shots than the Raiders and had 13 more rebounds, including eight more offensive rebounds as it led from start to finish. "We've got a bunch of guys, they were good high school players and they can shoot it well, but we don't have anybody who you would call a productive rebounder," Bess said. Six of the Eagles' first 10 points were fastbreak buckets off steals as they jumped out to a 12-2 lead and had Bess calling his first timeout of the season just 3 minutes into the game. The Raiders, meanwhile, committed a shot-clock violation on their first possession and settled for outside jumpers after that. Deion Dobbins' tip-in more than 8 minutes into play was the Raiders' first points in the paint.
The young Three Rivers squad with three returning sophomores settled down after the early jitters and by the end of the game, committed four fewer turnovers and was plus-seven in points off turnovers. They also had two fewer points in the paint. The Raiders weren't able to make the same strides on the glass, though, and it ultimately iced the game. "We didn't rebound a lick," Bess said. "We don't have the big physical guys like we usually have. We have a guy on the bench who will help us a little bit (in Corey Bowen who did not play)." After being down by as much as 22 points in the second half, Three Rivers cut the lead to 69-61 with 6 minutes left. Three Rivers missed a couple of shots, and was down by 10 when the Eagles milked 2 precious minutes off the clock with a three offensive rebound possession. Soon after, Trevor Lewis sank a 3 for Tallahassee and the Eagles outscored Three Rivers 11-4 in the final 6 minutes of play. Three Rivers made one field goal in the final 6:30 and went 1 for 10 shooting during that stretch. Jeffery Porter, the shortest player on the team along with Alex Coggins at 6-feet, led the Raiders with eight rebounds and five offensive rebounds. Porter was 12 for 14 on free throws and 6 for 15 shooting to finish with a collegiate-best 26 points. He was the only Raider in double figures. "I did OK, we still got a loss so it doesn't really matter what I did. It matters what the team did," Porter said. "We could have done better. We gave a lot of offensive rebounds, some of them were my fault. We'll try and do better (Saturday)." Porter averaged 4.7 points while fighting through injuries as a freshman and scored in double figures once, when he went 8 for 11 shooting and finished with 20 points against On Point Academy. "Porter led by example. I knew where he came from, so I'm not surprised. I expect him to do that but physically he's got some problems. He just competes and maybe he'll set an example for some of the others," Bess said. "He's got a little ankle problem, and a knee. He just plays with a lot of heart." Friday was also the debut for Poplar Bluff alums Willie Lucas and Chris Stocks. Bess said in the preseason he can't recall a Raider team ever having two former Mules at the same time. Lucas and Stocks both said they had a lot of friends and family in the crowd. "I think it as good atmosphere, we just played a little sloppy. But overall it was good," Lucas said. Added Stocks, "It was good. We had a lot of support, we've just got to play better. We have to be there for each other, be more efficient on both ends of the floor." Lucas played 20 minutes and had seven rebounds, second on the team after Porter. Stocks played 13 minutes and was 1 for 4 shooting, 3 for 3 on free throws and had five points and two rebounds.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic