Lady Raiders hold back Wabash Valley in meeting of nationally-ranked teams

Lady Raiders hold back Wabash Valley in meeting of nationally-ranked teams

Twice in the second half Saturday afternoon, the Three Rivers women's basketball team was able to build a double-digit lead and each time it got whittled down to a bucket.

Wabash Valley missed a chance to pull even in the final minute and the Raiders got a pair foul shots from Joi Montgomery before Ari Winston scored on a pair of inbound plays to clinch a 69-61 win at the Libla Family Sports Complex.

"It was tough but we got through it," said Winston who scored 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the field.

The eighth-ranked Raiders improved to 3-0 by holding off 13th-ranked Wabash Valley (Ill.) in a defensive battle.

Three Rivers hosts Olney Central (Ill.) at 3 p.m. Sunday to wrap up a busy first week of the season.

"It's very important," Montgomery said of the weekend test. "We got to know what to expect."

Said Raiders coach Alex Wiggs, "This was a defensive battle."

Three Rivers nearly had as many turnovers (21) as field goals (22), shooting 17.2% from 3-point range. But the Raiders held Wabash Valley to 33.9% shooting from the field, held a plus-13 rebounding advantage and took care of business just enough at the foul line.

"If you're not making shots you've got to crash the boards," Wiggs said.

Winston, Montgomery and Karlee Holland each had seven rebounds while guard Autumn Dodd led with eight, including five on the offensive end. Myia Yelder and Montgomery each scored 12 points, Dodd added 11 and Holland 10.

"It was tough (rebounding)," Montgomery said. "It was a lot of pushing and shoving, grabbing. We just managed to have everybody come together and just grab the rebound."

Montgomery's putback off a missed 3-pointer with 5:49 remaining in the fourth quarter put the Raiders up 58-44, their largest lead of the game.

Valley rallied with a 10-2 run behind three steals to get within six at the 2:41 mark.

The Raiders went scoreless nearly 2 1/2 minutes before Montgomery scored in the post for a 62-54 lead.

Valley's Darlisha Reed, who scored a game-high 15, scored off a pass down the lane then got a steal leading to Daijah Smith's 3-pointer over a defender.

Suddenly with a minute left the Raiders led 62-59 then turned the ball over.

Jasmine Elder, who sank a game-high four 3-pointers, missed one short and the Raiders were on the run off the rebound. Montgomery was fouled in transition at midcourt and it was ruled intentional. Montgomery sank both free throws but missed two more with 36 seconds left.

Reed again made it a three-point game and, after a timeout advanced the ball to midcourt, Winston broke free with a screen and took the inbound pass for a layin. Three Rivers did it again after a missed 3 by Elder, this time with Winston scoring as she was fouled and sank the free throw to set the final score.

"All he told me to do was just run the floor," Winston said of the inbound plays. "Joi made a good pass and Myia passed it on the and-1."

Three Rivers led 43-41 at the start of the fourth quarter after leading by 10 early in the third.

The Raiders put together a 7-3 run to start the second half after taking a 31-25 lead into halftime.

Valley chipped away, getting within 40-39 in the final minute of the third as Three Rivers scored just once over nearly six minutes. Holland splashed in a 3 from straightaway but a second-chance bucket in the final second cut the lead to a bucket.

Winston opened the fourth with a drive and Montgomery scored off her own miss but both missed foul shots. The Raiders later broke Valley's press with Dodd scoring and Winston got a leaning hook shot to fall for a 51-44 lead.

Valley picked up its third technical foul of the game and Yelder sank four straight free throws. Montgomery's putback later put Three Rivers up 58-44.

"Both teams did not shoot it great but I think a large part of that was the defense," Wiggs said.

While the Raiders play a zone defense and Valley plays the opposite, both were equally effective.

Wiggs said this early in the season defenses are "way ahead of offenses."

The difference may have been rebounding, which Wiggs said was a "big focus" heading into the game.

The Raiders didn't get their first field goal until the 4:44 mark when Yelder sank a 3-pointer to tie the game at 4-all. Alexis Radcliff scored in the post while being fouled and sank a foul shot before Daijah Smith's fastbreak layin off a missed 3 by the Raiders at the other end.

Three Rivers sank 3 of 18 from 3-point range in the first half and 5 of 29 for the game with only Holland knocking down more than one.

"It's like that some times," Winston said. "Everybody has their good days and sometimes we have bad games."

The Raiders scored six straight to take the lead with 1:10 left in the opening quarter but Valley led 11-10 heading into the second.

Montgomery got a steal leading to a break and two foul shots before Dodd poked the ball away to Montgomery who scored on the other end. Winston later broke a 14-all tie to start a 7-2 run that ended with a catch-and-shoot 3 by Mariah Smith.

In the final minute, Dodd sank a 3 to answer one by Valley to send the Raiders into the half up six.

The Raiders sank 20 of 29 free throws while Valley was 15 of 26 from the line.


Brian Rosener - Daily American Republic