The Lady Raiders are trying to run away with the top spot in Region XVI before January even ends.
Saturday, they earned their 11th win by 20 or more points in a rout against Crowder. Three Rivers was tested in the first and third quarters but outscored the Lady Roughriders 22-11 in the second and 31-15 in the fourth to run away with an 81-56 home win. The win was the ninth in a row for Three Rivers.
Jordan Little led the way with 18 points and five assists on a 5-of-11 clip from downtown in a team-high 31 minutes. It was Little's 13th time scoring in double figures this season, and her five assists tied a season-high.
"We just go hard as a team, and I just looked for my shot a little more than I usually do and was also passing, dribbling in and kicking out so other people can score," Little said.
Three Rivers forced 29 turnovers in the game, 17 of which came in the first half as they led by 17 points at halftime.
The Lady Raiders (16-3, 4-0 Region XVI) connected on 13 3-pointers in the game, but none were more crucial than one from Hailee Erickson in the third quarter.
A 13-0 run from Crowder (7-12, 0-1 Region XVI) had cut the Lady Raiders' lead to six points when Erickson nailed a 3 on the wing with 31 seconds left in the quarter to stretch the lead to nine and swing the momentum back in favor of Three Rivers.
"That shot right there breaks their back," Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk said. "They clawed back within six points and were on a pretty good run, and all of a sudden a kid that they know can flat shoot the 3 hits a 3 and it demoralizes you. … If she doesn't make that shot, who knows how this game goes. That's how big that shot was."
Erickson finished with 11 points, four assists and four steals in 30 minutes.
That triple sparked a 19-6 run to seal the game for Three Rivers and keep them undefeated in region play. Hannah Thurmon kept the momentum with the Lady Raiders as she buried a 3 on the same wing to start the fourth quarter. Katelyn South connected on a runner on the baseline for two more, and after Deanay Watson split a pair at the free-throw line, Erickson drilled another 3 on the opposite wing to put the hosts up by 14.
"We kept our heads in the game," Watson said. "We had that timeout and we all talked and got together and we were like, 'OK, y'all, pick it up and we'll get through this game.' And that's what we did. We picked up our energy and we came out even stronger."
South finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, tying her season-high on the glass. Watson was the fourth Lady Raider in double figures with 10 points and 10 rebounds in 22 minutes. Watson, the team's leading rebounder, earned her sixth double-double of the year.
"You've got to stop every one of them because at any given point, the kids we're playing, any of them can have a double figure game, and it's just not one kid. You've got to guard all five of them on the floor and whoever we bring in off the bench," Walk said.
With 4:21 remaining in the game, the Lady Roughriders were called for an intentional foul as the Lady Raiders got out on a fast break, and an ensuing free throw from Little put Three Rivers up by 20 points for the first time as the team wrapped up the game with solid shooting in the final frame.
In the first half, Erickson sparked the first big run for the Lady Raiders, too. With just under eight minutes to go in the second quarter, Erickson ran to the wing after a steal from Kim Shaw, got the ball and sank a 3 to put the Lady Raiders up by nine, starting an 11-0 run. The first three baskets of the run came from beyond the arc with Little following Erickson's 3 with one of her own and South drilling one shortly after. Casey Douglas finished the run with a driving layup along the baseline.
When Crowder was giving Three Rivers fits, they were using a lot of skip passes to get the Lady Raiders' zone defense off balance and working the ball into the middle for shots around the rim.
"We got stagnant on offense. The ball was going in at a pretty good rate in the first half. They went to a simple 2-3 zone, and some of the reason they got back into it is we didn't handle it very well," Walk said. "We were making one pass, maybe two, and shooting it and not making them guard us and rotate on defense."
The Lady Raiders weathered the storm, though, and still came away with a 25-point win.
Next, Three Rivers will take a break from region play and host Arkansas Baptist at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic