Three Rivers lost its first big test of the season, but the freshmen got indoctrinated to college basketball in the process. Facing 20th-ranked Wabash Valley, the 19th-ranked Raiders fought back from multiple doubledigit deficits, before fading in the fourth quarter and losing 92-81 Saturday at the Libla Family Sports Complex. "Our freshmen did OK, for the most part. They still have to get better. They got indoctrinated today to college basketball," said Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk, adding that the game had the feel of a Region XVI contest. "They figured out real quick they have to play every single possession and stay engaged. And that's every freshmen every year." Wabash Valley (4-0) opened the second half with a seven-point run, doubling its halftime lead in the first two minutes.
The Raiders (3-1) then ramped up their defensive intensity and allowed one field goal the rest of the quarter. An'Nyah Pettus made a pair of free throws following a third-try putback with 4 minutes left in the third quarter to get Three Rivers within one possession.
Bre Beck made a layup for Wabash Valley with 2 minutes on the clock for the Warriors' first field goal in over 6 minutes. "We came out with a more defensive effort with our hands up, being active, moving with the basketball, being in the flow on defense and offense. Why we didn't get into that until the third quarter, I don't know," Walk said. Myia Yelder, who finished with 10 points, answered with a pair of free throws for the Raiders and Chaylea Mosby sank a fivefooter to tie the game at 63. "Everyone was in the mode, don't give up, keep fighting hard, play hard," Three Rivers sophomore Deanay Watson said. Haley Moore made a late free throw to put Wabash Valley ahead by a point heading into the fourth quarter. Wabash Valley separated with a 12-3 run through the first half of the quarter and didn't allow Three Rivers to get within 10 points in the final 4 minutes. "We kept playing, but when they started scoring, we kind of had a deer in the headlights look," Three Rivers sophomore Hannah Thurmon said. Deanay Watson and Hannah Thurmon each had 16 points to lead Three Rivers. Watson also grabbed seven rebounds to match Yelder and Pettus for the team lead. "In the fourth quarter, we missed some bunnies that we'll make by the end of the year, if not sooner," Walk said.
Wabash Valley shot 65% in the first half, including 7 of 12 on 3-pointers, but only went into halftime with a seven-point lead. Three Rivers, which shot 52% in the first half, made up some of the difference by going 8 for 11 at the foul line while Wabash Valley was 2 for 5. Thurmon had 15 of her 16 points in the first half after sinking five 3-pointers. With the Raiders down by as much as 15 early in the second quarter, Watson and Thurmon 90 seconds apart that cut the lead to six. Thurmon's bucket capped a 14-5 run for the Raiders and had Wabash Valley calling for a timeout with 5 minutes left in the half. Thurmon sank another 3 with a minute on the clock and one more with 10 seconds to go, giving her five of Three Rivers' eight 3-pointers in the first half. She finished 5 for 11 on 3-pointers after Wabash Valley changed its defense against Thurmon in the second half. "I was taking quicker shots, and they were in my face (in the second half). They weren't helping off the ball for me to get open. They changed definitely," Thurmon said. Thomas was hurt on Three Rivers' first possession in the second quarter when she went up for a layup and landed awkwardly. She limped back on defense before going to the ground, and Wabash Valley scored on the pseudo power play to go ahead by 15. Thomas did not play the rest of the first half. Beck led the Warriors with 12 points in the first half after not scoring until late in the first quarter. She had nine points in the second quarter, including a 3. The Raiders' only lead in the first half was after Thomas stole an inbounds pass and scored to take a 9-8 lead. Wabash Valley then made a free throw for the only tie. Jazmyn Turner led the Warriors with 21 points and Beck had 20. On Monday, the Raiders slipped to No. 24 in the NJCAA rankings while Wabash Valley moved up a spot to No. 19. Three Rivers travels Wednesday to Belleville, Illinois to face Lindenwood Belleville JV.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic