PARK HILLS — The Imo's Bob Sechrest Classic was just the place for the Three Rivers Raiders to end a four-game losing streak even if it game at the expense of anyone with a weak heart or anxiety issues.
The Raiders broke open a close game and took a 17-point lead midway through the early stages of the second half, but watched Illinois Central College peck away until pulling within three points in the closing seconds.
Then a solid defensive effort held off an attempt to tie the game at the buzzer and Three Rivers held on for an 84-81 win.
The Raiders (3-4) take on Arkansas State-Mid South at 5 p.m. Saturday, also at Mineral Area.
"It was a good win — we had more points at the end of the game than they did," Three Rivers head coach Brian Bess said. "I like balance and guys that can contribute."
The Raiders were outrebounded 36-31 and committed 18 turnovers while shooting 54 percent from the field, but struggled at the free throw line at 67.7 percent.
The game was choppy with 57 combined fouls and 63 free throw attempts.
"(ICC) started to panic and turned up the heat on their presses and B.J. (Francis) and Caleb (Young) were out so our depth was a little bit short," Bess said. "Makur (Jongkuch) came in and gave us some good minutes and I am glad he did because we weren't able to sub much — we had a couple of guys foul out.
"Makur was the most positive thing. He helped us when he hadn't been helping us that much so far."
Jongkuch scored seven points and grabbed six rebounds in 25 minutes of play.
Illinois Central's Courtland Soil led all scorers and kept the Cougars in the game with 31 points
The two teams came out feeling each other out for the first 10 minutes-plus of the first half and neither could really get any distance from the other.
However, a subtle 6-0 run over the seventh and sixth minutes by the Raiders allowed them to push out to a 27-21 lead and they would carry that edge to a 38-32 halftime advantage.
Then things got even more Raider-y after halftime.
The teams exchanged a few makes in the first few minutes and then a barrage of layups off tough defense and back-to-back treys suddenly pushed the Three Rivers men to a 52-35 lead with 14:58 to go in the contest.
The game boiled down to essentially the Raiders holding court for the next half-dozen minutes-plus, but Three Rivers was able to keep the lead in the 9–11-point range before two Illinois Central free throws cut their deficit to 72-65 with six minutes left.
ICC then narrowed things to 81-77 with 92 ticks left and after a timeout and facing strong Cougar pressure, the Raiders ultimately got a foul call, went to the free throw line, and ultimately got a split of two attempts by Mario Fleming.
Fleming got fouled again 32 seconds later after the Cougars pulled within 82-79 and again split his two opportunities to make it a two-possession game.
The Cougars hit a layup 15 seconds later and decided not to foul on the next Three Rivers possession but an inadvertent contact led to a whistle putting Raider Lamont Jackson on the line.
He also flushed one of the two and suddenly ICC was a trey away from knotting things up.
After a timeout with five seconds left, the Cougars managed to get a shot up from deep but it drew nothing, but the bottom of the backboard and the Raiders survived the threat.
Alan Dale - Daily American Republic