After highlighting the Raiders' troubles through much of the fi rst month of the season, Three Rivers coach Gene Bess struck a more positive cord on Thanksgiving. The Three Rivers men's basketball team had its fi rst blowout win of the season Thursday with a 102-58 victory over Hocking (Ohio) in the Peoples Community Bank Thanksgiving Classic at the Bess Activity Center. "Now is about the time we need to start really putting things together and we are going to have to beat Tennessee Prep and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M," Bess said. The Raiders (4-2) opened with a 19-3 run in the first 7 minutes that featured strong play from Aidan Saunders, who was back in the starting lineup after playing three of the past four games off the bench. The sophomore guard ran the point in the opening minutes and scored seven of the Raiders' fi rst nine points. He then drove and kicked out to Willie Lucas in the corner for an open 3, and followed that with a jumper. Corey Bowen polished off Three Rivers' opening run with a pump fake and a dunk. All said, Saunders had nine points and an assist in the first 7 minutes of play. He finished with 21 points, four rebounds and three assists. "We are just asking him to start playing defense and share the ball. He can get the ball to the hole, he is about as good as you are going to see at getting the ball to the hole," Bess said. "We're just wanting him to blend in a little better and play on the defensive end. We keep giving him these chances and he did pretty well tonight." It was his third game this season with 20 or more points as Saunders leads the Raiders in scoring with more than 15 points per game, but was ninth on the team in shooting percentage (36.2) before Thursday's game. He was 8 for 12 shooting against Hocking for his most effi cient game of the season. The Raiders steadily built their lead throughout the game. They were up 29 at the half and their 44-point margin of victory was their largest lead of the game. "I think we made some progress," Bess said. "We still haven't gotten over a couple of those big losses we had against Tallahassee and John A. Logan. We were just not ready to play. … We had a pretty good week's practice. We got some things done I think."
Five Raiders finished in double figures. Chucky Wilson had 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting. He also led Three Rivers with seven assists and added fi ve rebounds, including three offensive rebounds. Lucas had 16 points and seven rebounds, and also had a five-point play – if you include an asterisk. Late in the game, Lucas drove and scored through a foul. After the whistle, Hocking's Ricardo Prince was called for a technical. Lucas hit the two free throws for the technical foul, then made the free throw for his three-point play, for five total points without any time running off the clock. "He's such a great kid. He does everything you ask him to do. He's a coaches' dream right down to it. He lacks a little quickness defensively, but he is going to get better at that," Bess said of Lucas. Keiondre Jefferson came off the bench and chipped in 12 points and six rebounds, and Corey Bowen added 11 points and fi ve rebounds. Hocking shot 30 3-pointers, which is in line with its season averages but made only five (14.3 percent). "We fi gured that they would really shoot the 3 and shoot it well and we tried to take that away from them," Bess said. "It was one of those situations where you knew they were going to shoot the 3 so you gear up and try to get in close to them to take that away and make them put it on the floor and we did a pretty good job of that." Terrell Washing was 3 for 3 and Kendle Hicks was 2 for 5 from beyond the arc for the Hawks (4-3). The rest of the team was 0 for 22. Demarious Green was 0 for 4 on 3-pointers, but shot 50 percent elsewhere and led the Hawks with 15 points and nine rebounds. Prince, who was one of two players to play 10 minutes for Hocking and not shoot a 3, added 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. Ellsinore's Alex Coggins got his fi rst points as a Raider and brought the bench to its feet in doing so. Coggins, who played 4 ½ minutes, spotted up with 3 minutes remaining and swished an open 3. A couple possessions later, he drove baseline and kicked it out to Wilson for another 3 that gave Three Rivers 100 points in a game for the first time this season. Three Rivers has now won three in a row and will play Tennessee Prep tonight at 7 p.m. and Northeastern Oklahoma A&M at the same time Saturday. "These next two teams are awfully good," Bess said. "I was impressed with both of those teams in that first game (Thursday.)"
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic