POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - Two weeks after allowing 63 points in the first half to Moberly Area, Three Rivers held the Greyhounds to 43 and were within 10 points at halftime.
But the close game became anything but in the first 8 minutes of the second half as the Greyhounds went on to win 99-71 on Saturday at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
"They got a jump start on us and then we played decent for about 10 minutes, and just kind of gave up. Pretty much like we did up there. It's not a good thing for our team," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "We're going to keep working and we have got some teams we have beat in the region, but we are going to have to set the bar kind of high to be as good as Moberly."
Moberly jumped out to a 12-3 lead in the first 4 1/2 minutes.
Willie Lucas opened the game with a 3 and drew a charge at the other end, but Three Rivers' initial momentum disappeared after they went nearly the next 4 minutes without a field goal.
Markelo Sullivan, who had 16 points, made back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Greyhounds up by nine.
Three Rivers (14-9, 2-3 Region XVI) trailed by as much as 14 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half before going on a 12-3 run.
Hardimon started the run with a three-point play. After Sullivan made another 3 for Moberly, Hodges scored and Hardimon added a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 10.
The Raiders added three more free throws in the bonus before Hardimon backed down his man and scored to get the Raiders within five points with 3 minutes left in the half. He went on to lead the Raiders with 16 points and eight rebounds.
After a Greyhound timeout, Moberly's Tyrek Chambers finished a three-point play, scooped up a turnover and made a 3 to put the Greyhounds back ahead by 11 and Three Rivers went into halftime down by 10.
Moberly (19-5, 4-0), though, doubled that lead in the first 4 minutes the second half and padded nine more points to their lead over the 4 minutes following that.
"I tried telling my guys if you want to be any good in the national tournament you have to beat a team like Moberly. This was a challenge for us that we didn't achieve," Bess said. "We have a lot of guys who look like they went into a paralytic state early on. When you are getting up against your toughest talent, you have to play harder, not lesser."
Three Rivers never got within 20 points the rest of the game.
"I'm pretty disappointed because we've had 2-3 pretty good practices," Bess said.
With the loss, the Raiders stay in third place in the region while Moberly moves 1 1/2 games ahead of Mineral Area, which lost its only game of the season so far to the Greyhounds.
Three Rivers committed 28 turnovers to Moberly Area's 12 and was minus-35 on points off turnovers. Six different Raiders committed at least four turnovers. Moberly shot 40.5% in the first half and 52.6% in the second half while the Raiders went from 44% in the first half to 39.4% in the second half.
The Greyhounds had four players in double figures. Along with Sullivan, Cortez Mosley led the team with 17 points. Chambers had 15 and Eddie Creal got 12.
"They're kind of amazing with their talent. They're deep. They can beat you off the dribble and they can shoot free throws," Bess said. "We've got some shooters who can't guard and some guys who can guard who can't shoot. Their guys are pretty multi-faceted."
The Raiders' next host State Fair at 7 p.m. Feb. 1. The Roadrunners were ahead by 18 points in the first matchup before Three Rivers was able to rally for the win.
"Not enough energy on the court," Hardimon said of the start to the second half, adding that the Raiders will need consistent energy against State Fair. "Just play harder from all the way from the start, all the way to the finish."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic