TRCC beats State Fair to snap losing skid
POPLAR BLUFF - The perfect opponent showed up to help Three Rivers get out of its funk.
The Raiders, winless since beating State Fair three weekends ago, got a much-needed win with another thumping of the Roadrunners.
This time it was an 88-61 victory Saturday night at the Bess Activity Center that got Three Rivers headed in the right direction.
"We felt like we had to come back out here and get back on the winning side," sophomore Derrell Minner said. "Our record wasn't looking good, so we had to come out here and get the job done."
State Fair couldn't have shown up at a better time.
Mired in their third losing skid of the season, the Raiders (14-10, 3-3 Region XVI) regrouped with another dominating win in a lopsided series. Three Rivers is 47-4 all-time against the Roadrunners, who remain the region's only winless team.
"It feels good to win again," freshman guard Matt Gibson said. "Hopefully we can keep it going."
Three Rivers had it going on homecoming. After coughing up an early 13-point lead and actually trailing with three minutes left in the first half, the Raiders scored 10 of the final 12 points of the first half and 16 of the first 21 in the second half to run away from the Roadrunners.
Down to eight scholarship players, State Fair couldn't keep pace with Three Rivers. The Raiders, who outscored the Roadrunners 45-25 in the second half, got seven or more minutes from all 12 available players and 11 of those scored. "We jumped off to a good start, then the next thing you know we're trying to get something for nothing.
"We're jumping around, fouling," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "The second half we came out and played a lot more mature. We played experienced and showed some poise."
Gibson led three players in double figures with 14 points. Sophomore point guard Dereke Tipler and freshman Loic Toiler scored 12 apiece for the Raiders, who shot 50 percent from the field.
Gibson, already on pace to become second on the school's single-season scoring list, etched his name in the record books with his 30th consecutive free throw late in the first half. Gibson's free throw with 7:01 left in the half broke Justin Wimmer's record of 29 straight set during the 1992-93 season.
"If it stays for awhile it will be nice," Gibson said. "People will remember me for something."
Without starting sophomore center Steve Deken, who is out 6-8 weeks with a broken wrist, Three Rivers introduced a new-look starting lineup. Gibson got his first career start and freshman Loic Toiler started in Deken's center spot.
But what appeared to be a center-by-committee turned out to be a one-man job. Toiler, averaging 2.8 points and 2.7 rebounds coming in, helped control the paint with career highs of 12 points and nine rebounds.
"Me and Loic are in this gym working on our games more than anyone else, and tonight it showed for Loic," Gibson said. "He works hard and he deserves every bit of it."
Toiler got some help, though. Minner had nine points and 11 rebounds, and despite lingering knee problems, Danijel Zoric had nine points in nine minutes. The Raiders had a 43-23 rebounding advantage.
"You've gotta have that mindset that you're going to get rebounds and do the hustle plays to get a victory. If you don't set your mind right first, you won't do it," Minner said. "I told myself I needed to come here and do what I did earlier in the season to help the team win. I did my part, and everyone did their part too."
Three Rivers started fast with a Nick Covington 3-pointer from the right baseline and Gibson trey from the right wing to go ahead 16-5. The Raiders led by 13 when Gibson hit the second of two free throws after Edward Hudson was whistled for a technical foul.
State Fair (11-13, 0-5) responded with eight quick points and went ahead 34-33 on a Bobby Barrow free throw, but Minner had a putback, then converted a pass in traffic from Tipler as the Raiders closed the half with a 10-2 run.
"I think the real key was Minner," Bess said. "He kept us in the game in the first half. We would have been behind if he hadn't crashed the board four or five times.
"I think these sophomores are at the stage of their careers that they want to get some things done before it's all over. I wouldn't count this bunch out." Gibson opened the second half with a 15-foot jumper, then Tipler came up with a steal and converted two free throws to give Three Rivers a double-digit lead.
After a Marcus Ardison putback, Toiler dropped in a hook from the left block and Tipler converted an acrobatic layin while being fouled to make it 53-38.
The Raiders led by 20 on another Toiler score and were up by 26 when Gibson knocked down another jumper with just over five minutes left.
Brock Perkins scored 21 and Nick Burton added 13 for State Fair, which committed 25 turnovers and shot 39 percent. Chris Carr had seven points and five rebounds before fouling out.
Walk-ons Aaron Bidewell and Terrence Smith each hit 3s in the final minutes as the Raiders poured it on.
"At halftime coach really wasn't pleased with us, so the second half we tried to really come out and play for coach, play like he wanted us to play," Gibson said. "Even though we should beat this team, we still had to play hard."