Three Rivers College must win its final six games of the regular season to avoid the first losing season in coach Gene Bess' 48 seasons. With one more loss, it will need to win the Region XVI Tournament to not have a losing season. Ahead in the final seconds of both regulation and overtime, the Raiders allowed a pair of buzzer beating 3-pointers and lost to St. Louis Community College 75-73 in overtime Thursday night at the Bess Activity Center. "We didn't play well the first half. We came back and played well enough to get back in the game. I thought we played pretty well down the stretch and in overtime, made big runs," Bess said. "We're going to come back out strong the rest of the year. We owe that to ourselves and we owe that to our fans." St. Louis (14-10) called its first timeout of the second half just two minutes in after the Keiondre Jefferson finished a runout to cut the Archers' lead to fi ve points. A couple minutes later, Jefferson swished a fade away to cut the lead to three. Cameron Maddox made an NBA-length 3 with just over 12 minutes left to retake the lead for Three Rivers (9-14) for the fi rst time since it was 6-5. There were 12 ties and four lead changes over the next 12 minutes. With 30 seconds left, Raider ball and the score tied at 60, Chucky Wilson drove, kicked it out to Jeffery Porter who he swished an open 3 with 14 seconds left. The pair boosted the offense late with Porter fi nishing with 13 points and eight rebounds and Wilson getting eight points, six of them from the free-throw line. Aidan Saunders led Three Rivers with 18 points and eight rebounds. After a pair of timeouts, Charles James swished a quick 3 for the Archers, then the Raiders raced up the fl oor and Jefferson missed a long jumper. Porter grabbed the offensive rebound, but time expired before he could get the putback away. St. Louis scored the first six points in overtime and Three Rivers scored the next seven. Wilson grabbed a rebound and found Porter with a kickout pass for an open 3. Then he drew fouls on the next two possessions and hit three free throws to give the Raiders the lead. Along the way, James, who sank the shot to force overtime, fouled out.
With 20 seconds left and Three Rivers up by two, the Archers got the ball to Raushaun Amos, who had made one basket all game, and he sank a 3 with 15 seconds left. Wilson came back with a quick layup to put Three Rivers in front with 10 seconds to go, and the Raiders called timeout. After the break, Jalen Wadlington again grabbed the inbounds, raced up court and sank a 3 from the right corner with several Raiders in his face. "They took some tough shots. We were just trying to keep them off the line. Our hands were in their faces, they were just hitting some tough shots," Wilson said. Wilson caught the inbounds and launched a full court shot that rattled out. "I felt like I would have hit it," Wilson said. "I rushed it, I wasn't really thinking, but I was hoping it would go in." Three Rivers shot 21 percent in the fi rst half, 18 percent worse than St. Louis, and went into halftime down by eight. The Raiders never trailed by more than 10 points because of their ability to get to the foul line. They were 14 for 18 (78 percent) on free throws in the fi rst half. Six different Raiders made at least two. Three Rivers fi nished 16 for 21. Three Rivers led 6-5 in the early going before St. Louis went on a 10-1 run, its biggest run of the fi rst half. The Archers took their 10-point lead with 1:20 left when Dominique Loyd scored. Saunders and Maddox cut it to six with a pair of trips to the foul line, and Andre Pruitt scored with 20 seconds left to make it 30-22 going into the locker room. "We have to regroup, not feel sorry for ourselves and get back out here on Saturday and beat West Plains," Bess said. "West Plains, it kind of depends on how we coach the game and if we come prepared to play. We are good enough, I think, to beat any team in the region. Moberly seems to be the dominant team but I think we can beat them. We've just got to play them one game at a time and get everybody to play them well." The closing schedule includes home region games against MSU-West Plains and Mineral Area, another home game against Arkansas Baptist, which beat Three Rivers by a point earlier in the season, and games against West Kentucky, On Point Academy and at Lincoln Trail. MSU-West Plains travels to the Bess Activity Center this Saturday. The Raiders lost by four points when they played at West Plains on Jan. 20. The Grizzlies haven't won since, losing to State Fair, Mineral Area and Moberly Area. A high-scoring team, MSU-West Plains is averaging 96.7 points per game and has fi ve players averaging more than 10 points per game. Ricky Torres leads the team with 17.6 points per game.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic