WEST PLAINS, Mo. — Against an opponent that likes to run and press, Three Rivers ended up running and turning the ball over. The Raiders committed 25 turnovers Saturday in a 102-97 loss to Cowley (Kan.) in the MSUWest Plains Challenge. In a back-and-forth game, Three Rivers ultimately ended up minus-9 on turnovers and minus-8 on offensive rebounds, two areas Three Rivers coach Gene Bess is keen to see improvement on. "We had way too many turnovers," Bess said. "They were a really aggressive little team and they shot the 3s real well and trapped us a lot. We ended up playing their game." The Raiders (5-4) scored 14 points more than their season average of 83.4 while holding Cowley (8-2) eight points under their season average of 110. Cowley currently leads the nation in total points and field goal attempts per game.
Cowley is also third in the nation in steals per game at 17.4, and had 18 steals against the Raiders. "They got every loose ball, so it sure got us back to reality. I'm hoping that our kids start realizing that we are going to have to get our share of loose balls and rebounds," Bess said. "They're going to have to start playing harder. It is just one of those things you work through. We weren't ready for a full-court press as much as anything else."
Three Rivers shot 39.4% on 3-pointers in the game, led by Hayden Sprenkel and Willie Lucas. Sprenkel was 7 for 13 on 3s and led the Raiders with 25 points. Lucas was 3 for 5 and finished with 11 points. Tallon Fonda made a pair of 3s and had 19 points off the bench while Brahm Harris was 7 for 12 shooting and got 16 points. Lydell Geffrard had 14 rebounds, 11 of them defensive, to go with eight points. It was the third game in a row the Raider forward finished just shy of earning his first double-double of the season. He grabbed nine rebounds in each of the previous two games. Poplar Bluff alum Dominique Hardimon led Three Rivers with four offensive rebounds and had seven total rebounds to go with eight points, but he also committed a team-high six turnovers. "He's a worker. He didn't have his best game Saturday night, but I can always count on him to play hard," Bess said. Three Rivers will next host its annual Thanksgiving Classic, which will be the first held at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
The Raiders will play at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and will face Roane State on Thanksgiving, followed by Southern Arkansas University Tech and finally Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. "Our kids are resilient. They've got high expectations and they'll be ready to play," Bess said. Roane State (3-5) ranks 39th in the nation in 3s per game (9.6) and is 38th in 3-point attempts per game (26.5), but are 69th in 3-point percentage (36.3). A flip side of taking so many 3s and scoring 70 points per game is Roane State doesn't get to the freethrow line much. And when it does, it doesn't do well. Roane State is averaging 16.1 free throws per game with 10 makes for a 62% rate. Kavon Hill is taking nearly six 3s a game and leads Roane State in scoring (15.8) while freshman forward Elijah Cobb is shooting 66.2% from the field and scoring 14.3 points. Southern Arkansas (5-3), a Division II school, is averaging 84.9 points and shooting 47.3% as a team. It is in the top 40 in 3s per game (8.8), rebound margin (13.5) and field goal percentage, but struggles with turnovers (18.1) and fouls (22.9).
Southern Arkansas has four players in double figures with Sheldon Stevens leading the team with 25.3 points per game. Stevens is shooting 10 3-pointers a game while making 44.3% of them. NEO (5-4), meanwhile, is committing fewer than 11 turnovers per game and ranks 17th in the nation in that category. It is also limiting opponents to 66.2 points while averaging 84 points itself to go with 20.6 assists per game and 17.8 rebound margin. Sophomore point guard Rudi Williams leads NEO with 20.3 pointers per game and Samkelo Cele is averaging 15.0. The duo are both shooting near 50% from the field and 85% on free throws.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic