POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - Three Rivers dropped the rubber match against MSU-West Plains and is now 2 1/2 games back of the Moberly Area for third place in the Region XVI standings.
Three Rivers, down by nine early in the second half, had a chance for the buzzer-beating win but lost 71-69 on Monday at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
"I felt like we could have beaten this team. We could have played much better than we're playing right now. We're in a slump right now, that's all," Three Rivers' Dominique Hardimon said.
The Raiders (8-9, 2-7 Region XVI) are now tied with State Fair for fourth place in the region standings. The Roadrunners earned forfeit wins against both Moberly Area and Three Rivers.
Three Rivers beat State Fair 82-78 in their only other matchup, and the two will face off again on Saturday. Three Rivers also plays at Moberly Area on Wednesday.
"We have to regroup and try to compete with them. They are really good, especially up there," Three Rivers coach Brian Bess said of Moberly Area. "It's that time of year to start playing well. You have to start peaking right now, and we're not. We're struggling a little bit. We need to start playing better."
Without Jesse Zarzuela, who is no longer on the Grizzlies' roster after averaging 22.8 points through 11 games, James Williams led the Grizzlies with 27 points on 50% shooting, 12 points above his season average.
"I didn't know Williams was going to get 27 points. They just kept going to him, kept isolating him. He was really good," Bess said. "We had gone over their little set, and they kept going to it. They were getting some mismatches on us and scoring pretty easy."
Jones had the ball in his hands with a chance to win late.
Ahead by two, MSU-West Plains missed two free throws with 5 seconds left, and Jones grabbed the rebound. Bess wanted the Raiders to get the ball past halfcourt and call a timeout. Instead, Jones dribbled right and stopped for a 3 but the ball slipped out of his hands, and the Grizzlies caught the loose ball as time expired.
"I thought Kevin competed tonight. The shot before, I think he got a shot that goes in a lot, too," said Bess about a missed layup on the Raiders' second-to-last possession. "We had a lot of shots that were in and out."
The Raiders led by a point at halftime, but the Grizzlies scored the first eight points and led the rest of the game. Three Rivers ended the run after the Grizzlies dunked a fast break and drew a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
With 14 minutes remaining, Harris scored to cut the lead to five but picked up a technical foul after the play, and the Grizzlies made one.
Three Rivers continued to chip away at the Grizzlies' lead and got within a point with 9 minutes left before MSU-West Plains (10-4, 5-2) countered with six quick points.
Nico Hill made a 3 with 7 minutes left that stretched the Grizzlies' lead to nine points, the biggest of the game.
Jones got a three-point play for the Raiders, drove for a basket, and with under 3 minutes left, Hardimon scored in the post to cut the Grizzlies' lead to four.
An air-balled 3 turned into a gift putback on the Grizzlies' next possession, and they called a timeout with 37 seconds left.
Strickland passed to Hodges, who drove for an early jumper and missed. Hardimon grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled on the putback. He made both with 27 seconds remaining, and the Grizzlies called another timeout.
"He's got a shoulder major shoulder separation and an AC Joint. But man, he's tough. He battles and brings energy. I just love coaching Dom," Bess said.
Down a point with the shot clock off, Three Rivers pressed and quickly fouled Martaveon Jones, who had 11 points, after he caught the inbounds pass. In the double bonus, he swished the first and rattled in the second.
Hodges missed a baseline jumper, but again Hardimon grabbed the offensive rebound and again was fouled on the putback.
"Just trying to get to the score and try and take the lead," Hardimon said. "Broken down defensive possessions (separated us tonight). I guess that's about it, hustle plays."
He made the first and missed the second. Muhammed Kora was fouled on the rebound and missed both.
Jones dribbled up court, drove left, missed an off-balance layup, and Three Rivers put Kora back on the line with 5 seconds left.
Scott Borkgren - Daily american Republic