The Three Rivers College men's basketball team opened the 50th season under coach Gene Bess with a defensive gem Friday night.
The Raiders allowed just one field goal over the first 8 minutes, 42 seconds to build a double-digit lead, then didn't give up a point in the first 4 1/2 minutes of the second half.
Eight different players had steals, led by four from Kevin Jones and Hayden Sprenkel's three, as the Raiders beat Link Year Prep 92-61 in the First Midwest Bank Classic at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
Jay Hines and Tallon Fonda led the Raiders offense with 16 points each while Brahm Harris chipped in 13. Willie Lucas had eight points and a team-high seven rebounds while Dominique Hardimon and Kinyon Hodges also scored eight points.
Three Rivers held the Lions to 32% shooting from the field, including 5 of 19 from 3-point range. Link Year scored 20 points at the foul line.
Harris opened the scoring on the second possession of the season for the Raiders, knocking down a pull-up jumper.
Biggie Bergerson's 3-point put the Lions ahead but Harris knocked down a 3-pointer at the 16:49 mark to put the Raiders ahead for good at 7-5. Hardimon drew a charge then got an offensive rebound leading to a basket by Hines to start a 13-2 run.
Lucas knocked down a 3-pointer for a 10-point lead with 13:05 left in the opening half and Fonda later sank one of his own for a 20-9 advantage.
A steal and layin by Cametre Chambers ended a span of seven minutes between field goals for the Lions.
Three Rivers led by as much as 16 in the first half and went into the locker room up 39-27.
Link Year shot 25.9% from the field in the first half and committed 17 turnovers before finishing with 26.
The Raiders scored 20 points off turnovers and 20 second-chance points. They allowed just six offensive rebounds and won the battle under the glass 52-41.
Last season Link Year beat the Raiders 91-85, holding Three Rivers to 7 of 26 shooting from 3-point range and finishing plus-11 on rebounds.
In the first half Friday, Three Rivers sank 7 of 23 3-point attempts and took just four free throws. The Raiders scored 48 points in the paint and finished shooting 41.9% from the field and 9 of 12 at the foul line.
The Raiders, who improved to 3-2 at their new home as Bess earned win No. 1,282, will host Wabash Valley (Ill.) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The Warriors lost to Mineral Area 73-50 as coach Luke Stege earned his 100th win.
The Three Rivers women's team opens the season at 3 p.m. Saturday against Olney Central (Ill.).
Brian Rosener - Daily American Republic