Raiders can regain winning record at Thanksgiving Classic

Raiders can regain winning record at Thanksgiving Classic

It’s Thanksgiving week for the Raiders, and that means three straight days of basketball at the Bess Activity Center are on the horizon. The Raiders will host Wilbur Wright (2-4) Thursday, Tennessee Prep Friday and Northeast Oklahoma A&M (5-4) Saturday, all Three Rivers games are at 7 p.m. with additional games at 5 p.m. In practice this week, Three Rivers (3-4) has been working on breaking the press and avoiding traps since Tennessee Prep is likely to try a similar approach against them. Rebounding has been another focal point for coach Gene Bess and his staff. Three Rivers currently has a minus -5.1 rebounding margin per game, which puts them 179th in the nation. The Raiders’ total of 38.3 rebounds per game puts them at 125th. In practice, the Raiders have worked on several boxing out drills and drills focused on getting position when a shot goes up in order to combat some of those issues. “We got some guys that are beat up, myself included,” sophomore guard Chris Stocks said. “We really just have to lock in each day. We can’t let up and we have to stay mentally focused. That’s the most important thing for us.” 

Stocks is fully participating in games and practices, but he is dealing with an abdominal injury. Sophomore guard Willie Lucas is out for anywhere from four to eight weeks with a leg injury. With Lucas out of the lineup, Three Rivers is missing his 15 points per game and 6.7 rebounds, as well as a deep threat as he’s shot just over 51 percent from beyond the arc. “(Lucas) is invaluable. He’s been a great player for us, but we played pretty well in that last game Saturday night without him,” Bess said. “We take a lot of pride in having our guys ready to where if we lose a player or two, we fill the void pretty good.” Here’s a look at the Raiders’ opponents:

Wilbur Wright

Wilbur Wright (2-4) wants to space the floor and shoot 3s, much like the Raiders. The team is 11th in Division II with 30 attempts from 3-point range per game, but its averaging eight makes for a pedestrian 28.3 percent from long range. Led in scoring by freshman guard Demarco Graham, Wilbur Wright could look to lean on his 18.2 points per game for production on offense as he’s also on the floor 90 percent of the time, averaging 36 minutes per game.

Tennessee Prep

The Raiders aren’t unfamiliar with Tennessee Prep coming into Friday’s matchup, having already scrimmaged them before the season started. “They press and trap, and that’s what we struggled with against Triton on Friday night,” assistant Brian Bess said. “So, that’s (Gene) has been gunning for (Tuesday) is a lot of presses and stuff because we played eight preseason games and we only got pressed one time, so he didn’t want us to not be prepared for the press like we looked last week.” Stats were not available at press time.

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M

NEO (5-4) has come up with 15.3 steals per game, which is sixth in the Division I rankings and just over 23 assists per game to rank 14th in the category. Sophomore forward Ravel Moody leads the team in scoring at 17 points per game on just under 48 percent from the floor and 82 percent from the free-throw line. Guards Reaudale Williams and Kyle Lukasiewicz both pitch in 11 points per game as the second and third leading scorers for an NEO side that averages 76 points per game and shoots 47 percent per outing. “NEO upset Coffeyville, who was ranked I think fourth, so they’re good,” Brian Bess said. “We’re excited about them coming here.” 


Nate Fields - Daily American Republic