Raider defense shines as Bess gets 1,296th win

Three Rivers' Tallon Fonda (12) tries for a layup as St. Louis' Ahian Barnett falls to the ground on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, at the Libla Family Sports Complex in Poplar Bluff, Mo.
DAILY AMERICAN REPUBLIC/Scott Borkgren

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — A few days after Three Rivers coach Gene Bess called for defense and rebounding from his team, the Raiders allowed their fewest points in 2 1/2 months.

Three Rivers coach Gene Bess picked up his 1,296th win Tuesday as the Raiders rolled to a 96-59 win over St. Louis CC. It is the fewest points allowed by the Raiders since they beat Highland (Ill.) 78-53 on Nov. 15.

“Really played hard. That’s kind of typical Raider basketball and I’m hoping that’s the beginning of something really special down the stretch,” Bess said. “I felt good about a lot of players. Especially Tallon (Fonda). He started and just did a bang-up job. (Kinyon) Hodges, he’s been solid throughout the season, but he put a good game together … Austin (Parker), last year about this time he came into his own. I’m thinking now if we can get Austin, Tallon, and Jay really playing hard, their sophomores, they could really give us a lift.”

Kinyon Hodges had a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists. Parker had nine points Fonda led the Raiders with 23 points, though Bess was more pleased with his defensive showing.

“We kind of challenged Tallon and he really played hard on defense, got some big rebounds and just played a really good basketball game,” Bess said. “I think we’ve got some players who are pretty competitive and I’m hoping this is the beginning of something really good. I’ve been waiting for it.”

Dionte Raines came off the bench and got 17 points. The Raider bench scored 52 points as everyone off the bench played at least 14 minutes.

“It’s time for these guys who have been working so hard and not getting much playing time to get a little playing time there and that’s a positive thing,” Bess said.

Three Rivers held St. Louis to 19 points and allowed consecutive baskets one time in the first half.

The Raiders (15-10) scored the first six points in the wire-to-wire win.

Willie Lucas put the Raiders ahead by double-digits 9 minutes into the game. The Raiders continued to stretch their lead throughout the half. Dionte Raines made it a 20-point game with a 3 with under 4 minutes on the clock and a free throw from Lucas with a minute to go made it a 27-point game heading into the locker room.

Following the halftime buzzer, St. Louis (10-13) was issued a technical foul, and Hayden Sprenkel made both free throws to kick start the second half, and the Raiders were soon ahead by 30, then 40.

Three Rivers has five regular-season games left, including Region XVI games against MSU-West Plains and Mineral Area. The Raiders will also travel to Arkansas State Mid-South and host Arkansas Baptist and West Kentucky CTC. Three Rivers picked up close wins earlier in the season against Arkansas State Mid-South and Arkansas Baptist.

Tuesday’s win was Three Rivers’ first to be decided by more than 10 points since the Raiders beat North Arkansas by 17 points on Dec. 12. Ninety-six points are also the most points the Raiders have scored in a game since they finished with 102 points against North Arkansas.

Their four wins since were all by seven points or less.

Three Rivers is now 9-5 for the season in games decided by 10 points or less and 4-2 during the second semester.

Three Rivers’ Lydell Geffrard left the game after 2 minutes with a sprained ankle, though Bess said it was not a high-ankle sprain.

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