PARK HILLS – Behind suffocating perimeter defense that forced 19 first-half turnovers Saturday evening, the new No. 1 team in women’s junior college basketball certainly looked the part.
Top-ranked Three Rivers stamped its dominance with a 16-3 surge before intermission, and remained perfect on the season with a 77-54 victory over Mineral Area.
Sophomore guard Myia Yelder compiled 17 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Karlee Holland had 13 points as four Lady Raiders eclipsed double digits.
Three Rivers (20-0, 8-0) shot a subpar 8-of-36 from beyond the arc, but brought relentless energy to generate extra chances through transition attacks and 25 offensive rebounds.
Raissa Nsabua totaled 15 of her 17 points after halftime, and claimed four steals to pace Mineral Area (16-8, 6-4), which could not recover from an early eight-minute field goal drought.
Yelder showed her speed on two driving layups, and Holland connected twice from long range as the visiting Raiders capped the first quarter with a 21-8 lead.
But a physical and buzzing presence against the MAC guards created several steals and disrupted the Cardinals into going 0-for-15 on 3-point attempts during the first half.
Yelder converted a 3-point play early in the second, and forward Joi Montgomery, who shut down the corner shooting threat, added two baskets inside to help create a 44-16 halftime spread.
Mineral Area made 11-of-15 free throws overall, forced 21 Three Rivers turnovers, and notably reduced its own miscues once returning from the locker room.
Nsabua provided a steal and layup before scoring over a tight double team to highlight a 6-0 run. Three Rivers delivered a 9-0 response to maintain command.
Hope Mealer, Michaela Ayers and Nsabua ended the Cardinals’ 3-point drought, but the Raiders rebuilt a 60-33 advantage to end the third quarter as Autumn Dodd notched their third banked-in triple.
Three Rivers held dangerous shooters Quincy Erickson, Gracee Smith and Ayers scoreless prior to the intermission while Lexi McCully tallied a single field goal.
Erickson muscled her way to a couple of baskets through contact in the fourth quarter, however, and matched Mariah Stewart with eight points each.
Ayers eventually scored nine on three 3-pointers, and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds for Mineral Area, which travels to Region 16 nemesis Moberly next Saturday.
Nsabua swished two 3-pointers in the fourth, and the Cardinals reduced the margin to 68-50 with less than four minutes to play.
Montgomery posted a double-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four steals, and Three Rivers went a collective 17-of-20 from the line.
Jenna McMillen also contributed 10 points toward the victory, and Kourtney Kendrick chipped in eight off the Raiders’ bench.