LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Three Rivers never trailed, but it was awfully close at the end. The Raiders scored the first seven points but had to hang on late to beat Arkansas Baptist 101-96 Monday night. "We had to earn it. We knew coming in we were going to have to earn it," Three Rivers coach Brian Bess said. "This is a hard place to play." Brahm Harris led Three Rivers with 30 points and 10 rebounds. He added several free throws in the closing seconds, and made a big 3 in the final minute that put the Raiders ahead by five. Lamar Wilkerson got a steal and a dunk to end the game and finished with 22 points. Keith Kiner and Mandell Campbell each had 12 points off the bench. Kinyon Hodges picked up his third foul with the Raiders in the double bonus midway through the first half, and Kevin Jones left the game with an ankle injury a few minutes in the second half with the Raiders up by 10. Campbell soon grabbed an offensive rebound and threw down a big dunk that put the Raiders (2-0) ahead 66-53 with 15 minutes remaining.
Soon after he got a steal and another dunk, and tried for a steal seconds later but was called for his fourth foul with the Raiders ahead by 18 points. "Just kind of let up, let off the gas," Bess said. With both Raider point guards on the bench, the Buffaloes cut the lead to 11 points and Three Rivers called a timeout. Marcus Hunter, who had 15 points off the bench in an overtime loss to Three Rivers last year, cut it to seven points with a stepback jumper with 8 minutes to go. Hodges re-entered with the Raiders leading by as little as three points with under 5 minutes to play and quickly scored. Arkansas Baptist made a pair of free throws with 3/12 minutes left to get within two points. Three Rivers had a chance to extend the lead to six points with a little over a minute remaining, but missed both free throws and the Buffaloes (1- 1) got a quick layup the other way. After a Raider timeout, the clock ticked past the minute mark and Harris made a big 3. The Raiders got two stops and Arkansas Baptist put Harris on the line with 16.7 seconds left. He made both to put Three Rivers ahead by three possessions, but Arkansas Baptist quickly drove, drew a foul and made two free throws. Harris stepped back to the line with 9.7 seconds left, missed the front end, and the Buffaloes drew another foul.
With seconds left, Jones, who had been icing his ankle, put his shoe back on to give the Raiders another guard with seconds left. Wilkerson got the inbounds and was immediately fouled. He made the first to put the Raiders ahead by three, and missed the second. With 2 seconds on the clock, Wilkerson stepped in front of a Buffalo, got a steal and a slam to end the game in style. Three Rivers will face the No. 1-ranked team in the nation in John A. Logan on Thursday in Carterville, Ill. It will be the Raiders' second game in a row without fans and the third of four games in eight days to open the season.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic