The Three Rivers starters had tremendous starts. The Raiders outscored Southern Arkansas University Tech 30-9 in the first 5 minutes of each half combined as Three Rivers went on to win 83-74 in the Peoples Community Bank Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday at the Libla Family Sports Complex. "I think their hearts are right and they just came to play," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said of his team. "I think our young men zeroed in tonight." Dominique Hardimon and Lydell Geffrard, Three Rivers' starting post players, were especially difficult matchups early for SAU. In his first rotation, which lasted about 5 minutes, Hardimon grabbed two offensive rebounds, had an assist, drew a charge and scored four points. Geffrard had an assist on one of Hardimon's baskets and scored six points during the same rotation. "I was seeing the mismatch. My teammates and coach said get me started early. They got me the ball and I just kept finishing," Geffrard said. "We just kept working the ball, sharing the ball with each other, grinded out the W."
The Raider starters collectively set the tone for a first half where Three Rivers (7-4) grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and 25 overall while limiting SAU to just two offensive rebounds and 10 overall. They jumped out to a 17-4 lead in those first five minutes and scored nine second-chance points. SAU's sole bucket was a contested 3 more than four minutes into the game. "I think we've got guys who can guard, but they've never guarded. They're going to have to guard in critical situations," Bess said. On one Three Rivers bucket, Kinyon Hodges dove out of bounds for an offensive rebound and swatted it to Hardimon under the basket. A minute later, Hardimon drew a charge and four of the five starters went to the bench, concluding a dominant shift. "I always equate (charges) to about 10 points," Bess said. Geffrard and Hardimon combined for 10 of the team's first 17 points a night after missing one shot each in a close win over Roane State.
Hardimon again missed just one shot and was 5 for 6 shooting while Geffrard was 8 for 14. "Our focus was to play the whole 30 seconds on defense, stay solid, no fouls, and when the shot goes up, everybody box out their man, get the board and get out in transition," Geffrard said."Last night we got a little caught up. This night we got into a rhythm, we all shared the ball, guys hit shots and we rebounded as a team." Three Rivers held at least a 10-point lead for nearly the rest of the first half. Jaland Mitchell made a 3 to cut the lead to nine points with 12 minutes left, and Jerome Bynum made a late 3 to do the same, setting the halftime score. Three Rivers pushed its lead to 20 points in the opening minutes of the second half. Geffrard scored seven points as Three Rivers went on a 13-2 run in the first four minutes.
Geffrard scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in his first rotation of each half. Hardimon had a steal for a dunk and finished a runout through hard contact, knocking him to the floor, but had to leave the game with a leg injury soon after. He did not return and finished with 10 points, five rebounds and three assists. With both Hardimon and Geffrard on the bench and less than 12 minutes left in the second half, SAU (6-4) cut Three Rivers' 16-point lead to 10 points with a three-point play followed by a 3-pointer. Soon after, the Rockets cut the lead to eight points, the closest it had been since the opening possessions of the game. Mitchell made a free throw with 2 minutes to go that cut the lead to six points. The Rockets wouldn't get any closer as Three Rivers made enough of its free throws late.
Three Rivers had 20 offensive rebounds to SAU's eight and was plus-17 on total rebounds despite shooting 39% as a team. "The thing that bothered me the most tonight was how many times those guys took us one-on-one and just blew by us," Bess said. "I think that's just concentration, focus, guts. If you want to play on this level, you have to get to where you can do that. If you let a guy beat you just one-on-one with the ball, you're going to have a hard time finding a place to play." Brahm Harris had 11 rebounds to lead Three Rivers while Hodges had six assists. Willie Lucas, who sank a key 3 late to push Three Rivers' lead to nine points, finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Sheldon Stevens came into the night averaging 25.3 points to lead SAU and was held to 13 on 5 for 18 shooting. Immanuel Anderson led SAU with 17 points, Mitchell had 11 and Decorey Watkins got 10. Three Rivers will Northeastern Oklahoma A&M at 7 p.m. Saturday to conclude its schedule in the tournament.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republican