Big contests on tap this week for Three Rivers hoopsters

SOUTH HAVEN — A big week is in store for the Three Rivers boys’ and girls’ basketball teams as they face two huge Wolverine Conference tests.
Three Rivers begins the Wolverine Conference boys’ season at South Haven tonight.
Brian Burg’s Wildcats compete in the South Division, while South Haven belongs to the North Division.
After defeating highly-regarded Niles 74-72 last week in its season opener, Three Rivers had its scheduled league opener at home last Friday against Plainwell postponed because of inclement weather until Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Meanwhile, South Haven lost at Sturgis 62-58 on Friday. The Rams are 1-1 under second-year head coach Larry Ash.
The Rams finished 20-4 last season after losing in the Class B regional finals 42-40 to eventual state runner-up Stevensville Lakeshore.
South Haven defeated Lakeshore 46-44 in its season opener last week.
Three Rivers finished 15-8 last season capturing its first winning season since 2006 and first district title since 2005.
Two of the Wildcats’ losses in the 2015-16 campaign came against South Haven. Three Rivers dropped a 76-75 overtime regular-season decision at home to South Haven. The Rams ended the Wildcats’ season with a 68-63 regional semi-final victory.
South Haven returns starters Joe Wilkins and DaShaan Palmer from last season.
Palmer, a 6-foot-5 postplayer, is averaging 15.5 points per game, including 16 against Sturgis.
“He (Palmer) can play above the rim and defends the basket really well,” Burg said.
Wilkins, a guard, is also averaging 15.5 points, and led the Rams with 22 points against Sturgis.
Other key players for the Rams include Caskadara Smith, who is averaging 7.5 points, and Caleb Ford, who averages seven points.
“South Haven will pressure us in the full court and half court. We need to make sure we handle their pressure and make sure we finish on transition baskets. They look to get to the basket and will shoot from behind the arc,” Burg said.
“They can score very fast and will want to force teams into making mistakes. This will be a good road test for us. Playing at South Haven is a tough place to play. They have multiple players that can score and defend well. We need to make sure we execute our offense, handle their pressure and finish around the rim.”
Three Rivers practiced on Friday and Monday despite having snow days.

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