LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Lady Raiders had a lot to be thankful for Tuesday against Arkansas Baptist. Freshman Deanay Watson helped propel the team with 16 points and 10 rebounds to secure her fourth double-double in eight games this season. Freshman Katelyn South tallied a season-high 23 points to go along with five steals, both game-highs. Sophomores Hailee Erickson and Kim Shaw both added 14. Most importantly for the team, the Lady Raiders annihilated Arkansas Baptist 86-41 in a game that was essentially over as soon as it started. "(The win) will make that turkey taste a lot better," coach Jeff Walk said. "We've played eight games in 20 days, so about a game every three days. (The rest of the week) will be a well-deserved break for the kids." Three Rivers (6-2) scored the game's first 17 points as it never came close to trailing, leading 27-4 after the first quarter and 49- 11 at halftime. "In the first half, our press was pretty much dictating what was going on, on offense," Walk said. "We were able to get pretty much anything we wanted offensively and on defense that first half." Erickson pulled down a rebound and passed to Shaw for a 3-pointer — one of 10 made 3s on the night for the Lady Raiders — giving the team its first basket 15 seconds into the game. Freshman Hannah Thurmon pulled down a missed 3 by Erickson and scored on a putback on the next possession to make it 5-0. After two missed jumpers from Arkansas Baptist (1-6), Thurmon gathered a rebound and tossed it to Erickson for another 3, catapulting Three Rivers to an 8-0 lead with over a minute gone from the clock. A steal from Erickson and a layup from Shaw led to two more points, and freshman J'Kayla Fowler converted an and-1 to pad the lead. Defensive pressure from the Lady Raiders helped them come away with fi ve steals in the first quarter.
With a comfortable lead, Three Rivers backed out of its vaunted full-court press and fi nished the game with 14 steals, four shy of their season average of 18 per game, which entered Tuesday seventh in the nation. One of the most eye-catching stats is the plus-19 (52 to 33) advantage in rebounding for the Lady Raiders, who average a plus 4 margin for the season. It's hard to get much more one-sided than the first quarter was Tuesday, but the second quarter was close. A 15-4 run spanned nearly 7 minutes in the second. Freshman Jordan Little got the action started with a putback on a missed 3 from Thurmon. Thurmon then corralled a rebound and threw an outlet pass to Fowler for a layup. Fowler followed a pair of free throws with a basket off a feed from Erickson after two offensive rebounds on the possession. South involved herself with a steal and layup on the other end and a triple to cap the run, putting the Lady Raiders ahead 42-8. "We played about as good of a first half as we've played all year long," Walk said. "It's hard to stay focused when you have games this far spread, but the kids did a good job." Layups from Madison Hopkins and Henrietta Edge and a free throw from Edge put Arkansas Baptist into double figures at 11 points with 2:25 left in the half. Hopkins finished with 9 points, and Edge led Arkansas Baptist with 17. With the game well in hand for the visitors, Three Rivers and Arkansas Baptist played a closer second half. Both teams scored 14 in the third, and the Lady Raiders outscored the hosts 23-16 in the final frame. "We didn't want to get complacent. We told them we were going to work on some halfcourt stuff defensively and make sure we work the ball on offense. We didn't want to create any bad habits on either side of the basketball," Walk said. "I think we accomplished that in the second half." Three Rivers will get a week off before returning to the Bess Activity Center at 6 p.m. Tuesday to face Arkansas State Mid-South in a rematch of its season opener, which it won 100-64 on the road.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic