PARK HILLS, Mo. — If you have to beat the man to be the man. What are you when you beat the man who beat the man?
Highland (Ill.) beat top-ranked Vincennes (Ind.) on Tuesday and was undefeated before Three Rivers handed the Cougars a 78-53 loss Friday in the Bob Sechrest Classic at Mineral Area College. Three Rivers will play Kennedy King at 5 p.m. Saturday to conclude its schedule in the classic.
The Raiders, who also beat No. 20 John A. Logan (Ill.) and its top-ranked NJCAA recruit on Tuesday, outscored Highland 15-2 in the final five minutes of the first half and went on a 28-7, 10-minute long run late in the second half. That put Three Rivers ahead by 31 points with 90 seconds left in the game.
"I think we've gradually seen improvement. I know we're playing better defensively in the post. (Austin) Parker came in and showed an energy level early in the game and shut a guy down. It's things like that that can make a difference on your team," said Three Rivers coach Gene Bess, who now has 1,285 wins in his 50th season at Three Rivers. "We've got several guys who are contributing and I like it that way, and I think they like it that way."
Tallon Fonda came off the bench to lead the Raiders in scoring for the second game in a row. After going 9 for 12 on 3-pointers against Logan, Fonda had 15 points and a team-high six rebounds Friday and was also second on Three Rivers with 23 minutes.
The Raider bench had 38 points compared to 11 points for the Cougars' bench. "I think I like (coming off the bench) a little better. You can adapt to what's going on, see what's going on. So you know what you are getting yourself into when you get out there," Fonda said. Post play was key for both teams as Highland (3-1) worked through All-American forward Adam Anhold, who had 19 points on 7 for 12 shooting, but only one rebound. The Raiders (4-2) keyed on shutting him down while also trying to score inside, from 3, and occasionally in between.
"We had to key in defensively because we had an All-American to guard. All we had to do was front the post like Coach Gene asked us to, and that pretty much shut him down," Three Rivers forward Jay Hines said. "(Anhold) seals the man behind him really, really well. When you get behind, it is almost a guaranteed basket for him. So our gameplan going into the game was to front him and front everybody who was in the post." While Anhold was 7 for 12, Highland shot 37% as a team and 20% on 3-pointers. The Cougars' bench was 4 for 14. Three Rivers had 30 points from 3-point range, 32 points in the paint, and four free throws, leaving just 12 points from midrange. Hayden Sprenkel was 4 for 6 on 3-pointers to finish with 12 points for the Raiders. Hines and Lydell Geffrard started in the post for the Raiders and Hines finished with 11 points and five rebounds while Geffrard got seven points and three rebounds. "I thought the whole game revolved around getting the ball inside and we got really good post play from Lydell and Jay," Bess said. "We did a great job of denying them inside the post, and they let us catch the ball in there, so it's good to see Lydell and Jay score in there because that's so important in the game of basketball."
After back and forth play through much of the first half, Three Rivers pulled away in the final five minutes with its 15-2 run to go into halftime with a 33- 21 lead. "I think our defense got tighter. We started rebounding more, started pushing the ball up the floor and got a lot more layups," Fonda said. The Raiders were trailing by a point at the fiveminute mark, the first time they had trailed since the score was 5-3. Hines scored a putback for the Raiders' first field goal in nearly five minutes, and followed that with a three-point play on the next possession. Then he caught a pass under the basket and scored for seven points in a little over a minute. Highland scored, and Geffrard answered with back-to-back buckets in the paint. Soon after, Shoemaker curled off a screen and sank a jumper from the elbow to put the Raiders up by 10 for the first time. After another empty trip for Highland, Three Rivers played for one last shot before the buzzer. Brahm Harris got the ball at the top of the key, dribbled, and made a stepback jumper from 10 feet to set the halftime score. Three Rivers started the second half right where it left off and outscored Highland two to one in the opening minutes to push the lead to 19 points.
Highland held the Raiders without a field goal for more than four minutes and was able to cut the lead to 10 after Nick Fleming made a fadeaway jumper from the baseline. But not 10 seconds later, the Raiders sank a 3. Soon after, Dionte Raines made a threepoint play following a steal to put the Raiders ahead by 16. It was the beginning of a 10-minute stretch where Three Rivers outscored Highland 28-7 to lead by as much as 31. "We do a great job when we sprint back on defense," Hines said. "As long as we guard the ball, stop them from getting into the middle and front the post, we've pretty much got the game in the bag.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic