In its season-opening two games last weekend, Three Rivers scored a combined 194 points and won each by at least 34 points. T h i n g s should get more difficult this weekend. The 19th ranked Raiders host a pair of Region 24 teams in Rend Lake at 8:30 p.m. Friday and 20th-ranked Wabash Valley at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Three Rivers Classic at the Libla Family Sports Complex. “We’re going to have to play both games. It is definitely not going to be an easy weekend for sure,” Three Rivers coach Jeff Walk said. Katelyn South and Deanay Watson are co-leading the Raiders in scoring at 15 points per game, with Jordan Little (13.5), Hannah Thurrmon (12.5) and Autumn Dodd (10.0) all averaging in double figures, as well. In the blowout wins to start the season, 10 different Raiders averaged more than 15 minutes, giving the roster balanced stats to start the season. Wabash Valley finished the regular season last year 31-0 and went into the national tournament as the overall top seed before losing in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up New Mexico. One of those 32 wins was 88-67 against the Raiders, who were the bottom seed in the tournament. After losing four of their top six scorers to graduation, Wabash Valley has dropped to one spot behind the Raiders, who return more of their roster, in the preseason rankings.
However, only one freshman has even gotten minutes for Wabash Valley through two games in 6-2 forward Jazmyn Turner, who is second on the team scoring at 13.5 points to go with eight rebounds and is shooting 53 percent from the floor. Breanna Beck leads the team with 16 points per game while Keya Patton and Michaela White are both averaging about 10. Wabash Valley opened its season with a 66-65 win over Pensacola State, and an 86-63 loss to fifthranked Northwest Florida State. On tape, Wabash Valley ran a 2-2-1 press that falls back into a 2-3 zone. However, Walk said the press doesn’t apply a lot of pressure and is kind of there just in case you want to give the basketball away. Three Rivers’ only other scheduled game against a currently ranked opponent is Dec. 28 against 24th-ranked Wallace State in Memphis, Tenn. The Raiders beat Rend Lake 92-57 last year after shooting 45 percent for the game and 29 percent on 3-pointers while forcing 36 turnovers. Rend Lake struggled through last season, finishing 4-23, but has opened this season 1-1 with an 89- 86 win over Independence and a 79-55 loss to Moberly Area. Rend Lake shot 35 percent in those games and 27 percent on 3-pointers. The top six scoring players on the team are freshmen, and Rend Lake has two sophomores as it brings a revamped roster to Poplar Bluff. “Rend Lake is a whole lot better than what they were last year,” Walk said. Freshman 5-foot-9 guard Madison Buford is leading Rend Lake with 22.5 points per game but is shooting 32 percent from the field. Burford has taken 15 3-pointers through two games, but has also consistently gotten to the foul line and is 13 for 18 so far. Fellow guard Makayla Marshall, who is 5-3, is also in double figures with 13 points per game and is shooting 50 percent from the field. Rend Lake has just one 6-footer on the team in 6-3 forward Kymberly Schmitt, who has played one minute through two games. Rend Lake includes a pair of local recruits in freshmen Jalynn Morgan of Van Buren and Timberly Masching of Doniphan. Masching is averaging about 10 minutes and 2.5 points per game while Morgan has played sparingly off the bench. On tape, Rend Lake has run a 2-1-2 zone press that Walk said few teams run anymore, meaning the Raiders will need to rethink how they attack it. “Just throwing the ball and looking in different locations that what they are looking,” Walk said of how should play against a press they aren’t used to seeing. With most of the minutes going to guards and an offense that likes to score of its defense, Walk expects Rend Lake to run. “It is going to be up and down. I don’t know if there are going to be any halfcourt sets in that game,” Walk said.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic