With back-to-back wins, Three Rivers coach Gene Bess is eight wins away from 1,300 wins during his 50-year career at Three Rivers.
After losing three games in a row, the Raiders got a close win against State Fair on Sunday for their first Region XVI win and beat Arkansas State Mid-South 81-74 on Wednesday at the Libla Family Sports Complex. The Raiders have 12 games remaining on their regular-season schedule.
"The major thing that we've got to do, we've got to be a little smarter and play a little harder," Bess said. "When we went on this road trip we didn't play hard. And if you don't play hard you aren't going to beat a good team. We didn't play hard against Moberly. And we didn't play hard against State Fair in the first half. But we came back. I'm hoping that we have enough smarts on our team that they'll start realizing that we've just got to start playing harder."
Three Rivers never gave up the lead after Hayden Sprenkel made a 3 a little more than 5 minutes into the game, but they spent much of the night with ahead by less than 10 against the Greyhounds (11-5).
"The coaching staff told them most of the games we play will be right to the wire and that's been true. I don't see any letup," Bess said. "We are going to have a lot of tough games the rest of the way ... I want to see our kids gradually get a little more mature, have a little more poise, figure a few things out and I think we'll be pretty good."
Wednesday was the Raiders' 11th game of the season decided by less than 10 points. The Raiders are now 7-4 in those games and 5-3 in games decided by five points or less.
"It starts in practice, going hard and learning how to compete in situations like that for one, and just digging down deep. When you're tired you have to push through no matter what," Three Rivers Austin Parker said.
The Raiders (12-8) briefly built a double-digit lead midway through the first half, but led by just a point with 13 minutes left in the game.
"We started off slow but gradually as the game went on we kept playing harder and harder and that's what got us the win," Parker said.
Hayden Sprenkel gave the Raiders a little breathing room with a pair of 3-pointers and would finish with 11 points.
A couple of minutes later, Tallon Fonda threw down an alley-oop and tried to hang on the rim, but his legs got knocked forward from a trailing defender, his fingers slipped and he took a hard all onto his shoulder. He would finish with 12 points.
Fonda got up quickly and made the free throw to put the Raiders ahead by 12, their first double-digit lead in the second half.
Kevin Fulton soon cut the lead to seven points with a 3, and Ike Moore, playing with four fouls, followed a Three Rivers turnovers with a pair of free throws, cutting the lead to five with 7 minutes left.
Moore, averaging 16.5 points and the Greyhounds' second-leading scorer, followed out on Three Rivers next possession while going for a rebound.
With both teams in the double bonus, Fonda and Brahm Harris pushed the lead to nine points with 4 minutes left with back-to-back perfect trips to the foul line.
The Raiders, ahead by seven with a little more than 2 minutes left, burned nearly two full shot clocks before Lydell Geffrard, who led the Raiders with 15 points, got the ball inside and scored through a foul, putting the Raiders up nine with 95 seconds left.
"Hayden came back the second half nicely and I really liked the way Austin gave us some moments when he started pressing and playing hard. He has a chance to really be a contributor. We have several guys who just need to play within themselves," Bess said.
The Raiders were 2 for 2 on free throws in the first half and would finish 19 for 24.
Moore led ASU-Mid South with 19 points. Lynn added 16, Zach Byrd had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Fulton added 10 points.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic