The Raiders put together about as complete an effort as you'll see Tuesday in their second consecutive win.
Tallon Fonda led the Raiders with a season-high 29 points and 11 rebounds, and Austin Parker added 21 points and 13 boards on a perfect 8-of-8 from the floor as Three Rivers shot 54.7 percent from the field in a 96-80 win over Southern Arkansas University Tech.
"It was a good team effort. I knew those guys were good," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "... They had a pretty good record, and I knew that they were very athletic and have a good program, so I knew we'd have to play pretty well to beat them."
Parker's 21 points were a season high and his 13 boards were one shy of his season-best.
"I tried to focus on my rebounding more," Parker said. "I knew a couple games I didn't really have as many, so I just tried to challenge myself to get as many rebounds as I can. That's my main focus really is defending and rebounding."
Three Rivers (12-17) rebounded as well as they have all season with a plus-15 rebounding differential. Parker swung the momentum in favor of the Raiders with just over five minutes to go in the game.
He scored two baskets in a row out of the post going up against a smaller defender. On defense, he tipped a shot and rushed back to the offensive end to stick back a missed shot for two more.
"Honestly, just doing everything I can to contribute for my team," Parker said. "Just giving 110 percent and trying to focus on getting us this win."
Mandarius Dickerson got involved late when he tossed up a runner that banked home to give the Raiders their first double-digit lead of the night at 82-71 with 4:01 left in the game.
"Maybe conditioning factored into it, but I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that we took care of the ball better and got the ball inside," Bess said. "I think that was the key from the very beginning was get the ball up and around the basket because we were able to score fairly easily there."
Parker stayed involved with a couple of free throws at the 2:44 mark, and he showed off his passing ability with a pass to Sprenkel for a corner 3 after the Raiders broke the Rockets' press.
The second straight win is just what Three Rivers needed to keep building momentum heading into the region tournament.
"We're just focused up and getting ready for region play, focus on winning this region," Parker said.
Three Rivers trailed by as much as eight before making a run to end the half with a slight lead. The Raiders outscored SAU Tech 19-7 to end the half with a four-point lead.
Fonda broke up an 11-3 run for the Rockets with a layup. Khalil Johnson intercepted a pass at halfcourt and found a sprinting Parker for a one-handed dunk in transition to shift the momentum. After three free throws for the Raiders, Fonda capped the run and gave the Raiders the lead again with a put-back after a missed free throw on the front end of a bonus situation.
"He's a great athlete; he's our best athlete," Bess said. "He can beat his man off the dribble, about anybody that guards him because the bigger guys are guarding him and he can beat them off the dribble. That's a big scoring weapon for us."
A pair of free throws from Will Bynum ended the run with 3:27 to go in the first half. The put-backs continued when Jama hustled to a rebound and stuck it back with a layup.
The Raiders were plus-10 in rebounding through the first 20 minutes, a rarity this season for a team that has struggled on the boards throughout the year.
Jama added to his total with a 3-pointer on the wing to put the Raiders ahead by two with under two minutes to go in the half. Bynum came back with a 3 to swing the lead back in favor of the Rockets on the next possession.
The 3-point contest continued when Fonda buried a triple from the corner as the teams kept trading the lead. Jama finished off the half with a layup after snagging a pass from Ayetimiyi and laying it home.
Next up for the Raiders, they'll finish the regular season at home against West Kentucky CTC at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic