The winning streak keeps getting bigger.
Saturday, the Lady Raiders began a new chapter of their history, playing the first ever game inside the Libla Family Sports Complex. At the same time, they picked up right where they left off.
They kept a tenacious defensive approach and combined it with torrid shooting in an 80-68 win against State Fair. The win is the 13th in a row for Three Rivers and their 20th of the season. It's Three Rivers' third consecutive 20-win season.
After the game, Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk expressed how much Saturday meant to him.
"I've never closed a gym out with a win and never won the first game in a new gym," Walk said. "Tonight's going to hold a special place in my heart."
It took Three Rivers (20-3, 7-0 Region XVI) a quarter and a half to get their first double-digit lead, though. The hosts trailed by a point in the final minutes of the first quarter before ending with six straight points to take a five-point lead into the second quarter.
"All of the expectations that we wanted to be the first one to score, the first person to score, all of that wrapped up in this, and the kids handled it," Walk said. "Three quarters of great basketball. … It was kind of a prize fight type of first quarter."
That lead reached 10 with a 7-2 start to the second. Katelyn South scored two off a feed from Casey Douglas to continue the momentum swing. Hailee Erickson got a home-court roll on a drive to the basket, and Hannah Thurmon found her shooting touch, knocking down a trey in the wing with 5:37 left in the half to put the Lady Raiders up by 10 for the first time all game.
Three Rivers began to pull away with a 12-2 run in the third quarter. The scoring burst gave them their first 20-point lead of the game, something they never had against the Lady Roadrunners (5-14, 1-5 Region XVI) the first time around.
"The way we started is exactly what I was expecting. I think everyone else was, too, because of the expectations and wanting to do well and win and make shot," Walk said. "... Once we got that over with, we started playing and kind of relaxed and went after it. Once that happened, I knew we were going to be all right."
Erickson was all over the place on offense and defense. She drew a slew of charges in the second half to give her team a boost on defense. Jordan Little started the run when she swiped the ball from a Lady Roadrunner, leaked out and scored an uncontested layup. She finished with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals in 34 minutes.
"I knew that with the gym opening, this is the first game and with being one of the teams that probably hardly ever gets to finish in one gym and gets to open up a new gym is something that not very many people get to do, so there were a little nerves, but once we got over it, I knew after that it was game over. It's going to be (a game) I'll never forget. That's for sure," Erickson said.
Several players got involved in the run. Erickson drove to the basket and got a shot to drop. Then Deanay Watson did the same while drawing a foul for a 3-point play. Douglas drove to the basket for a layup after splitting a pair at the line. Watson finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in 27 minutes.
"It was all of us working as a team," Watson said. "We knew that it was going to be a good game because of last time and how we played, so I think everyone had their head together and just came in like, 'Listen, you know, we've got to get together and get our stuff together.'"
Nokoia White broke the run with a basket for State Fair, but another one followed. Jordan Little dropped in a 3-pointer to put the Lady Raiders ahead by 24 points, sparking an 8-0 run in the process. Erickson raised her a 3 after Little pulled down an offensive rebound and swung the ball to her on the wing.
The Lady Raiders outscored the Lady Roadrunners 24-14 in the paint. They forced 30 turnovers and scored 24 points off turnovers.
The bad news for the Lady Raiders is J'Kayla Fowler left the game in the second half after twisting both ankles. Walk said she'd need to be re-evaluated before determining if she can play Wednesday.
Next up for Three Rivers, the Lady Raiders will visit St. Louis Community College for a 5:30 p.m. tip.
Nate Fields - Daily American Republic