PARK HILLS, Mo. - It took a 3-pointer with 4 seconds left for the seventh-ranked team in the country to beat the Raiders.
Three Rivers had a four-point lead with 25 seconds left in the game, but missed a pair of key free throws late and lost 76-75 on Saturday in Park Hills, Mo.
"I thought we got better and I thought we came to play. We were just two-three fundamental plays from winning this game, but you never can predict what is going to happen in a game," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "We've really been working hard for 7-8 days. There's nothing more the coaches could have done to get us prepared. I thought we were ready to come in here and we did compete."
The largest lead of the game was seven points and the largest lead in the second half was just four points.
Mineral Area (18-0, 1-0 Region XVI) got the ball to Malevy Leons in the corner but he missed a 3 with 34 seconds left.
With four seconds extra on the game clock than the shot clock, Three Rivers (10-7, 0-1) got the ball to Hodges and he was fouled with 25 seconds left. He made both free throws and Keyyaun Batchman drove to the basket as soon as the Cardinals got up the floor.
Dominique Hardimon tried to step in front to draw a charge, which would have been the Raiders' third drawn charge in the final 2 minutes of the game, but he was called for the block and Batchman made both free throws with 19 seconds left.
The Raiders, who called a timeout in between the two free throws, inbounded and with Mineral Area pressing, passed to the middle to big man Lydell Geffrard, who was fouled with 16 seconds left.
Geffrard missed both.
Down by two, Batchman dribbled right but was cut off from the basket by the Raiders. He then turned around and kicked out to Leons at the top of the key and the 25.7% 3-point shooter rattled in the potential game-winner with 4 seconds left.
"It's not good actually because they are our rivals so we always want to win, but things happen," Hodges said. "I feel like we can compete with anyone."
Three Rivers got quick inbound, but the Cardinals got a steal to win as the Raiders tried to race upcourt.
Geffrard led the Raiders with 12 points and eight rebounds. Hodges had 10 points, five assists and four steals and Tallon Fonda had 11 points.
"I thought Geffrard got a couple of big baskets down late. The main thing we have to do, we have to figure out how to get the ball inside better and more often. That gives us something to work on," Bess said.
Both Fonda and Geffrard came off the bench as Three Rivers got 38 points off the bench compared to 14 for Mineral Area.
The Raiders were down by five with under five minutes left in the first half when the Cardinals came up with a steal, but Parker chased down the fast break and got swatted the layup off the backboard. Soon after, he got a steal and threw down a two-handed slam.
"Just trying to show some energy, show that I'm playing hard just to try to get some energy going for us. We were kind of dead at the moment, so I tried to make a couple of key plays to get us into the game." Parker said. "They are a great team and it was just a good shot they hit. It happens, but definitely a great game tonight and we'll bounce back from it for sure."
After back and forth play in the closing minutes, Three Rivers came up with a steal and appeared to have a chance at the last shot and the halftime lead with 15 seconds left and the Raiders down by a point, but they were called for a carry while in transition.
The Cardinals threw a lob pass to Gabe O'Neal under the basket and he scored with 4 seconds left to give the seventh-ranked team in the country a 38-35 lead at halftime.
The Raiders took their first lead of the second half a few minutes in after Hayden Sprenkel made a 3 off of a turnover.
Eight lead changes and five ties followed in the neck and neck game.
Angelo Stuart led Mineral Area with 17 points. Leons and Batchman had 14 and Terrion Murdix got 12. Leons also had 11 rebounds for a double-double and finished 2 for 5 on 3-pointers in the game.
"We've got plenty of room for improvement," Bess said, highlighting next weekend's road trip to play Moberly Area and State Fair. "We're going to regroup and go up and compete against Moberly, and then we have to regroup again and play State Fair. Everybody is good this year. We were one or two short (Saturday), but I like the effort and I liked the enthusiasm we had. We just need to get a little bit better."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic