POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - A third slow start in as many games put the Raiders in a tough spot.
They got the energy they needed with 10 minutes remaining after a series of key plays by Keith Kiner and Kevin Jones, sparking a 17-point comeback and an 82-78 win over State Fair on Monday at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
"(Kiner) has great timing, and he is so long," Three Rivers coach Brian Bess said. "Keith really did a great job coming through for us, and I thought Kevin did a really good job. Made some big shots. Just an energy guy, and was excited about defense and trying to get others to get excited and get stops."
State Fair opened with a 13-1 run in the first 4 minutes, making three of their 10 first-half 3-pointers along the way and sparking a pair of early timeout by Bess.
"I don't know what is causing that. It is obviously poor preparation before the game or something, but I don't know," Bess said. "We can't do that at Mineral Area (on Wednesday). That is what they live for, is a little bit of intimidation and a little bit of a slow start."
With 10 1/2 minutes left in the game, Kiner blocked a pair of shots on the same possession.
He sent the first one, a layup, nearly into the stands. The second sailed back toward halfcourt. Jones chased it down, and the fleet-footed Sikeston alum finished a routine layup that cut State Fair's once 17-point, first-half lead to seven.
"I know it was a moment at the end of the game. I knew I had to play into my role. I've got long arms, so I played into the role of blocking shots," Kiner said. "After the game (Saturday), we were pretty down as a team. I knew me coming back (from injury), my first game back, I had to bring something to the table. One of the things I wanted to bring was energy."
The Roadrunners (5-4, 0-2 Region XVI) called a timeout.
Jones amped things up with a pair of free throws, followed by a 3 to get the Raiders within one possession.
Fist pumps and fury followed, and Kiner swatted another shot.
"A lot of passion. I love this game. I don't want to lose. I'm here to win. I didn't want to lose this game at all," said Jones, who finished with 19 points and five rebounds. "We were pressing hard. Also, we've had a slow start these past few games. It's region play. These games mean the most. We lost those two games back to back, so we needed this game bad."
With 6 1/2 minutes left, Jones got the ball at the top of the key, drove right, and drew a foul. He made the first and missed the second. Kiner grabbed the offensive rebound and slammed it, roaring as he hung on the rim.
There was more work to be done, though. State Fair quieted the crowd with back-to-back 3s.
Soon after, Three Rivers' Dominique Hardimon tried to draw a charge but got called for the block, drawing the ire of the Raider faithful.
With under 3 minutes left, Jones drove, dished to Hardimon underneath the rim, and his three-point play put the Raiders ahead for the first time in the game.
Immediately after, Jones drew a charge, drawing the praise of the Raider faithful.
Up by two with 58 seconds left, Three Rivers (6-3, 1-2) burned the shot clock before Brahm Harris missed a shot. Hardimon missed a putback, and Kinyon Hodges grabbed that offensive rebound and drew a foul.
He made one, and down by three with 10 seconds left, the Roadrunners stepped out of bounds while trapped near the corner.
Three Rivers was fouled immediately, added one last free throw to set the final score.
"I think we locked in and guarded better and got stops," Bess said. "At halftime, that was the adjustment, was not to gamble on the press, because then on the back end of the press they are shooting wide-open 3s. So we decided to stay more solid, more straight-up man, less gambling, and just make them earn it every time down."
Kiner, back in the lineup after rolling his ankle in practice Feb. 15, finished with nine points, three blocks, two assists and two rebounds.
Harris got 17 points and a team-high seven rebounds. Hardimon also had seven rebounds to go with 13 points and a team-high five assists. Hodges added 11 points and five rebounds.
Three Rivers' leading scorer Lamar Wilkerson, averaging 23.6 points, did not play due to a hamstring injury. Bess said he might play Wednesday at fifth-ranked Mineral Area.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic