Three Rivers suffers 37-33 loss

THREE RIVERS — Growing pains.
With a roster dominated by youth, Jason Bingaman understands his Three Rivers girls’ basketball team is going to experience some frustration.
Portage Northern exposed some of Three Rivers’ weaknesses in the Huskies’ 37-33 non-conference win over the Lady Cats at the Purple Palace Thursday.
“We struggled as a team to be aggressive,” Bingaman said. “That bled through to us offensively with us being inefficient. It was one of nights where we were a step off defensively and didn’t help ourselves when we had the chance by finishing offensive opportunities.”
Portage Northern (3-4) led Three Rivers 13-7 after one quarter and never led by more than that six-point differential throughout the contest.
Three Rivers trailed Portage Northern 26-25 entering the fourth quarter.
Senior Rhyeli Krause, who led Three Rivers, now 2-2 overall, with 14 points, knocked down a pair of three-pointers to erase a pair of three-point deficits. Her second triple during the period evened the game up at 31-31.
The Lady Cats took their final lead on a pair of Hadley Miller free throws with 1:52 left that gave her team at 33-31 lead.
Two free throws by Northern’s Paige Poulter evened the game up at 33-33 with 1:29 left.
The Huskies sealed up the game with field goals by Chyna McMillian and Lizzie Kimmel.
Three Rivers had four shot attempts in the final minute and misfired on all of them.
“We missed nine shots inside in transition,” Bingaman said. “Northern was quicker to loose balls and rebounds to get them a lead early on, but we were able to fight back and give ourselves a chance to win. Even not playing very well as a team, I was proud of the fact we still could have won by continuing to play hard.”
Three Rivers was outrebounded 32-27. The Lady Cats gave up 21 of those on the defensive glass.
Three Rivers quickly erased its six-point deficit after the opening period. The Lady Cats outscored the Huskies 9-6 in the second quarter to pull within three of their guests, 19-16, entering halftime.
Kimmel opened the third quarter with a shot from underneath extending Northern’s lead to 21-16.
But Three Rivers chipped away to eventually grab a 25-24 lead.
Krause meshed two free throws before adding a layup moments later to pull her team within one, 21-20.
Northern made the first of two free throws to back on top by two. Krause scored again underneath the iron to knot the score at 22-22. Miller added a shot inside the paint seconds later to give the Lady Cats at 24-22 advantage.
McMillian’s layup tied the game up at 24-24. But Three Rivers went back on top by one, 25-24 after Cara Smith netted the second of two free-throw attempts. Lexie Coon’s putback put Northern up 26-25 entering the fourth quarter.
Portage Northern coach Pete Schermerhorn felt his team learned something from its loss to Vicksburg on Tuesday.
“It was a physical game,” he said. “Three Rivers played hard especially on the defensive end and it gave us some issues. I was proud of how hard our girls responded in the second half. We were in a similar situation against Vicksburg on Tuesday and we panicked a bit and didn’t execute some things. We converted some looks inside at the end. Our man-to-man defense and not helping off of their shooters created some issues. Three Rivers likes to kick the ball out to its shooters and we didn’t give them as many looks in the final half.”
Miller added 13 points and seven rebounds for the Lady Cats. Krause had three boards. Junior Tessa Hawkins provided some spark off the bench with two points, one assist, three rebounds and three steals. Arionne Fowlkes had four assists and four rebounds. Izzy Taylor added three rebounds and four steals.
Three Rivers, which shot 11-of-40 (28 percent) and 9-of-17 free-throw attempts (53 percent) committed 22 turnovers.
Despite the loss, Bingaman says the Lady Cats are in line with the goals it set during the preseason heading into Christmas Break.
“A lot of our season depends on how we come back and respond after the break,” he said. “We need to refocus and do the little things needed to be successful.”
Three Rivers defeated Portage Northern 36-13 in the junior varsity game.
Aislyn Sternbergh led Three Rivers, now 2-2, with nine points. Jessica Barnes added eight, Alaina Abnet seven and Erin Brady five points for the Lady Cats.
Three Rivers is idle until Friday, Jan. 6 when it visits Otsego.
Scott Hassinger can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 25 or sports@threeriversnews.com.

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