PARK HILLS, Mo. - Three Rivers entered the second half needing a comeback in its fourth straight game and nearly pulled it off.
Three Rivers trailed by as much as 20 in the first half and got within five in the second before losing 81-68 to Mineral Area on Monday in Park Hills.
"This is a hard place to win, and we can't get in a hole and think we can (win) here," Three Rivers coach Brian Bess said. "We needed a little more preparation time (for Mineral Area), and we didn't get that."
As fifth-ranked Mineral Area (11-0, 3-0 Region XVI) sat on its 16-point lead, the Raiders (6-4, 1-3) chipped away, and Kevin Jones scored with 11:50 on the clock to get the Raiders within 10 points with 11:50 left in the game.
Keith Kiner's jumper 90 seconds later made the score 54-45 to get the Raiders within single digits for the first time since the score was 17-9.
A few minutes later, Shannon Strickland drove and finished through a foul but missed the free throw, and the Raiders were down by eight.
Inside 6 minutes, Jones rattled in a step-back 3 that go the Raiders within five points.
Soon after, the Cardinals burned 25 seconds off the shot clock before scoring and were up by nine as the clock ticked past the 3-minute mark.
The Raiders missed the front end of the bonus, and Terrion Murdix drove baseline and finished a reverse layup to give the Cardinals an 11-point lead, and the Cardinals padded their advantage during the final possessions.
"The State Fair coach said the difference between Mineral Area and the rest is their guys know their role and have accepted their role," Bess said. "That's not easy for 18-20-year-old guys."
Jones led the Raiders with 21 points. Harris had 17, and Hardimon got 14.
Three Rivers shot 14 for 26 (53.8%) in the second half and was 5 for 7 on 3-pointers.
Mineral Area was 16 for 26 shooting in the second half and 1 for 4 on 3s. Malevy Leons, who hit a buzzer-beater to beat the Raiders last year in Park Hills when the Cardinals were the No. 1 team in the nation, finished with 24 points to lead all players.
The Raiders fell behind by double digits initially at 19-9 after Mineral Area went on a 12-4 run early.
The deficit steadily grew and hit 20 points when Stone got a steal and finished a reverse layup, and Mineral Area led 40-24 at halftime.
"We turned it over too much. We forced some things it looked like, dribbling into a crowd," Bess said.
Lamar Wilkerson, who leads the Raiders with 23.6 points per game, missed his second game in three days because of a hamstring injury.
The Raiders next host Nation Wide Academy at 7 p.m. Saturday in what will be their fourth game in eight days.
"We may get a chance to play some of our non-regular guys more. That's what we are hoping."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic