The first half featured 10 lead changes and three ties. The second half, just one lead change and it didn't go the Raiders' way. Three Rivers finished 2-1 in the Peoples Community Bank Thanksgiving To u r n a m e n t after losing 66-52 to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M on Saturday at the Libla Family Sports Complex. The last time Three Rivers (7-5) went 3-0 in the Thanksgiving Tournament was in 2015-16. That year, the Raiders won all three games by at least 25 points and beat Dyersburg State, West Kentucky Community and Tech, and NEO. They finished 23-8 that season.
Three Rivers' Willie Lucas and Lydell Geffrard were selected to the All Tournament team following Saturday's game. Lucas had 28 points for the tournament, including a team-high 12 against NEO after shooting 4 for 10 on 3-pointers. Geffrard was held to six points and 10 rebounds against NEO, but had 11 points against Roane State and 19 against Southern Arkansas University Tech. He shot 15 of 28 from the field in the tournament. Saturday's game was the fewest points Three Rivers has scored this season. The Raiders previously scored 58 points in a loss against Indian Hills. On Saturday, the Raiders shot 32% overall, 30% on 3-pointers and were 4 for 10 on free throws against NEO's Syracusestyle zone. NEO shot 43% overall, 33% on 3-pointers and was 15 for 19 on free throws.
"We obviously are going to have to get better at that type of zone," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "We just didn't have anybody out there that had the kind of poise that you have to have against a team like that. But I sure do like our effort. The bench was into it, and that's a good indication." NEO (8-4) held the biggest lead in the early going after going on an 8-1 run to go ahead 17-10 midway through the first half. Three Rivers, though, answered with an eightpoint run over the next 3 1/2 minutes.
Samkelo Cele and Jadan Graves made back-to-back 3s with a little more than 3 minutes left to put NEO ahead by six. But once again, The Raiders punched right back with back-to-back 3s from Willie Lucas and Tallon Fonda. In the final minute with NEO running a halfcourt trap, Fonda missed a 3, poked the rebound out to the top of the key for an offensive rebound, got the ball back and drove for a layup that set the halftime score. Both teams shot 10 for 29 (34) percent in the first half. The Raiders were plus-7 on rebounds at the break and plus-four on offensive rebounds but were minus-five on steals. NEO took an eight-point lead, its biggest of the game up to that point, after the Raiders were called for a string of fouls roughly eight minutes in.
NEO made six free throws in the span of 3 minutes with neither team making a field goal during that time. It also put Three Rivers in the bonus while NEO had committed three fouls in the second half up to that point. After a Raider timeout, Alvin Cannady drove and scored to give NEO the first double-digit lead of the game. NEO scored again, drew a charge, and the Raiders called their second timeout in less than 90 seconds. "I look at our team and I feel we are taking two steps forward and one backward. Tonight maybe we took two backward," Bess said. "Our effort is good and I like the attitude of the players, but we just have to regroup." Down 12 with 9 minutes to go, Three Rivers started trapping out of the timeout. Austin Parker got a steal and a layup off the trap and with 6 minutes left, Lucas made back-to-back 3s that cut the lead to seven points, but the Raiders wouldn't get any closer. "We're used to people running man against us every time we play, so it kind of threw us off a little bit," Fonda said of NEO's zone. "We were trying to penetrate, get kickouts, get the ball in the middle, spread things out, hit open shots."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic