POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. - Three Rivers' NBA schedule has come to an end.
After playing 20 games in nine weeks, and sometimes four games in eight days, the Raiders lost 72-64 to State Fair in the Region XVI quarterfinal on Tuesday at the Libla Family Sports Complex.
"I kept thinking we were going to get it together at the end of the year. We were actually practicing good, and it didn't carry over at all," Three Rivers coach Brian Bess said. "It's been tough. It's been quite a challenge and probably tough on me figuring out what I should be doing. There would be times where my dad (Gene Bess) would say, if they don't do this, you need to kill them, or whatever. We just didn't have enough time ... (The schedule) made it to where we had a lot of shooting workouts and stuff like that."
Three Rivers led late in the first half and tied the game early in the second but trailed as much as 16 points late. Three Rivers (10-12) had beaten State Fair (9-14) in their two previous games this season by four and 13 points.
With all players being granted a redshirt season this year because of COVID-19, the makeup of next year's roster is largely uncertain.
"It's been a good two years here. I learned some. I learned you win some and you lose some, and you just have to keep pushing to the next level to get where you want to be," Three Rivers sophomore Dominique Hardimon said.
State Fair's Kohen Thompson has had his best games against Three Rivers this season.
The 6-7 wing matched his season-high of 22 points, which he set 10 days prior against the Raiders.
On Feb. 22, he had 17 points against the Raiders.
Heading into the rematch on March 20, Thompson had missed 16 straight 3s across five games, then put up 22 points on Three Rivers.
"Kohen Thompson was really good, and he's been really good all three times," Bess said. "We watch film of it and talk about it and go over the scouting report."
He was 5 for 8 on 3-pointers and 7 for 11 overall to go with seven rebounds in the quarterfinal.
In three games against the Raiders, he was 15 for 22 on 3s. He's 10 for 48 (20.8%) against everyone else and is averaging 9.8 points for the season.
Caleb Mims went into the quarterfinal 1 for 12 on 3s for the season and was 2 for 3 against the Raiders to finish with 14 points, nearly 10 more than his season average.
"We brought out the best in (State Fair). They played really well. They're really well-coached, great guy, class act," Bess said.
The Raiders shot 39.4% in the second half and 42.4% overall, while State Fair was 44.8% overall.
The Roadrunners, though, were 12% better on 3-pointers, making three more than the Raiders, with both teams attempting 25 total. They also were 9 for 14 on free throws while the Raiders were 6 for 13.
After some back and forth play for the first 4 minutes of the second half, Jones tied the game with a pair of free throws.
Thompson kept Three Rivers from taking the lead early in the second half with three 3-pointers and a three-point play for 12 of the Roadrunners' first 19 points.
Corey Nzigamasabo scored a turnaround hook shot with 8 minutes remaining to give State Fair the first double-digit lead of the game.
Next trip down the court, he rattled in his second three in the past month.
The Raiders pressed as State Fair burned the clock on offense. Harris drove and made a 5-foot jumper through a foul but missed the free throw, and the Raiders were down 11 as the clock ticked past 4 minutes.
"Basketball is a game of runs, and sometimes you can't catch up," Hardimon said.
He tried driving again on the next possession but dribbled into a double team and got called for charging. Jones grabbed a steal and raced down the court, but he too was called for a charge as another minute in the Raiders' season slipped away.
After a timeout, Shannon Strickland stole State Fair's inbounds pass but missed the easy shot and was called for traveling on a third-try putback.
Jones made a 3 with 1:17 remaining to cut the lead to nine points. It was the first time the Raiders had been within single digits since State Fair first took a double-digit lead.
The Raiders put State Fair on the line in the final minute but were still down by nine when Kinyon Hodges made an uncontested 3 at the buzzer to set the final score.
"We weren't good enough this year, just a lot of things I didn't do well, and our guys didn't do well," Bess said. "We never quit. I kept thinking we battled, and we did. We put our heads down a lot, and sometimes that turns into 2-3 mistakes. I guess a growing year for me especially."
State Fair looked to get Thompson going early. He made a pair of 3s early for the Roadrunners' first six points.
Thompson missed a 3 off the back of the rim moments later, then got the ball inside, drew a foul, and added a free throw.
The Raiders held Thompson scoreless for about 15 minutes and built a small lead.
Harris made a 3 in transition with 8 minutes remaining in the first half to put Three Rivers ahead by seven, their biggest lead of the game.
State Fair retook the lead with under 2 minutes left on a second-chance bucket.
Lavric Mangala made a step-back jumper from the free-throw line, and Thompson dunked just ahead of the buzzer to give himself 10 first-half points and the Roadrunners a 33-28 lead.
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic