JUCO basketball: No. 6 IHCC vs. Three Rivers

Tyrese Nickelson drives to the basket for the Indian Hills men’s basketball team during action earlier this season at the Hellyer Student Life Center in Ottumwa.

SEDALIA, MO – Three Rivers came in with more experience on the floor and on the bench.

In the end, the poise of the sixth-ranked Indian Hills Warriors proved to be the difference in helping put away an 87-58 win over the Raiders in the inaugural Iowa-Missouri Challenge. IHCC never trailed in the third of eight games being played over the two days of the in-season battle of Region XI and XVI programs, pulling away late in the first half with the help of two bench technicals on the Raiders.

Leading 34-29, Indian Hills had the ball with time winding down in the first half. Chris Childs, handling the basketball on the possession, was fouled by the Raiders and went to the foul line.

Childs was able to settle in from that spot. Officials whistled technical fouls on both legendary Three Rivers head coach Gene Bess (1,283 wins in 1,786 games over 50 seasons) and his son, assistant coach Brian Bess, leading to seven free throw attempts for Childs. The sophomore transfer from Saint Joseph’s College in Connecticut drained all seven, kicking off a half-closing 9-0 run that ended with a charge on the Raiders and a buzzer-beating basket by Tyrese Nickelson to give the Warriors a 43-29 halftime lead.

“I’m not really sure what happened right there,” Indian Hills head men’s basketball coach Hank Plona said. “We wanted to have the last shot of the half, but Three Rivers really gets out and pressures you. It’s really hard to play keep-away. These kids now are so athletic. They can jump in and out of the passing lanes. You can’t really play that four-corner style anymore.

“When Three Rivers came up to pressure Chris, he tried to drive by them. It was pretty clear to me that they fouled him. I think I even said that. They (Three Rivers) might have been upset hearing that, thinking that’s why the foul was called. I wasn’t sure why we got seven free throws instead of six, but because of my respect for Coach Bess, I didn’t really want to say anything.”

Childs would lead all scorers on the night with 13 points, finishing with 10 in the first half after the seven made free throws to close the half. J.D. Muila added 11 points before fouling out, scoring five of IHCC’s first eight points as the Warriors jumped out quickly to an 8-1 lead.

“We try to make sure to keep our cool and keep our composure no matter what’s happening out on the court,” Plona said. “There are a lot of strange things that can happen during the entire 40 minutes of a basketball game. We want to make sure our heads are squarely on our shoulders, continue to stay strong and stay committed to what we’re doing.”

Indian Hills built the lead to 58-33 in the first 10 minutes of the second half, scoring 13 straight points that included a 3-pointer and twisting lay-up by Maurice Calloo. Jumpers by Kinyon Hodges, Austin Parker and Hayden Sprenkel got the Raiders rolling before a 3-pointer by Dedoch Chan extended IHCC’s lead to 61-39.

The Warriors (3-0) got contributions for the first time this season from Chris Payton, a 6-6 freshman forward who was medically cleared to compete earlier this week. Payton scored his first six points of his college career, including tip dunks in each half.

“We just wanted to double check and make sure that Chris didn’t have anything serious with his health issue. He had a great preseason for us and is as talented as any freshman in junior college basketball,” Plona said of Peyton. “We have 14 Division players on our team. There’s not one guy on our roster that can’t make a big impact in any game.”

Loseni Kamara, a sophomore transfer from the University of Idaho, added eight points in the second half including a wide open 3-pointer in the final minutes that gave IHCC a late 31-point lead. Kamara scored just two points on one field goal in eight minutes of action last weekend in the season-opening Reed Overhead Doors Classic.

Lydell Geffrard, who like Childs is a native of New York, led Three Rivers (2-1) with 10 points in the loss. The Raiders will open the second day of the Iowa-Missouri Challenge Saturday against Southeastern at 1 p.m.

Indian Hills will close out the Iowa-Missouri Challenge Saturday night against the hosting State Fair Roadrunners. The win on Friday by the Warriors gave Iowa a 2-1 lead over Missouri in the challenge after Southeastern’s 82-68 win over Missouri State-West Plains and Moberly Area’s 100-75 win over Marshalltown.

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