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Raiders out jumped in opener

By: Greg Bird

Coach Robert Jones was quick to compliment his team for a hard fought battle in the Raiders’  87-70 opening night loss to the Somerset Briar
Jumpers Tuesday night.“I thought the kids played extremely hard,”
Jones said. “We were able to cut the lead down to four at one point, but turnovers and un-
forced errors hurt us.” “Somerset is a tough and quality opponent,” Jones said. “They have experience, and they are big and strong in the middle and that caused us a lot of problems in the game.”

Statistically, both teams matched up pretty evenly. Both squads shot about 50 percent from the floor, about 38 percent from behind the three-point arc and pulled down 30 rebounds. But there is one stat that can sum up the game – turnovers. Somerset coughed up the ball just 7 times to the Raiders’ 16, and the Jumpers took advantage of the mistakes to build up an insurmountable lead in the second half. Jones said he believes some of the younger players who saw action Tuesday night can learn a lot from those crucial errors.

“That is to be expected when you have young players on the floor,” he said. “We just have to learn from it.”

“We have a lot of young players on the roster and we are asking a lot of them. You have to expect some mistakes, especially in the early part of the season. But, as time goes on, they should learn from those mistakes and get better and really be able to contribute to our success.”

“I see potential for a lot of improvement over the course of the season,” he added. “That is our goal – to get better every game and be ready to compete at our highest level when the time comes.”

McCreary started strong, opening with a three-pointer from Kyle Tucker and managed to hang with Somerset throughout most of the period, but the Jumpers’ interior size and a McCreary cold shooting streak from the floor allowed Somerset to take a 23-14 lead at the end of the quarter.

The Raiders’ second quarter was much better, especially on the defensive end. Tenacious pressure on the ball carriers made Somerset rush shots, missing more than half of them in the quarter. Back to back steals and baskets from Ryan Jones and Cody Phillips late in the quarter allowed McCreary to cut the lead down to just five points, 33-28, with just under three minutes to play.

But, the Jumpers held the Raiders scoreless for the rest of the half, taking a 38-28 lead into the break.

McCreary couldn’t overcome the deficit in the second half, as the Jumpers slowly pulled away – mainly from the benefit of Raider foul trouble. Somerset center Daniel Coldiron went to the line on three consecutive plays in the third quarter as the Raiders couldn’t match up with the Jumpers’ big man inside.

McCreary outscored Somerset in the final quarter, 26-23, but it just wasn’t enough to overcome the deficit and they would fall – 87-70.

McCreary was led by Kyle Tucker with 14 points and 15 rebounds, followed by Tyler Longmire with 11, Hunter Jones with 10, Cody Philips finished with 9 points, Ryan Jones with 7, Cole Kidd and Devin Strunk with 4, John Cash with 3, Caleb Dixon, Gavin Smith and Brandon Troxell with 2, Hunter Bryant and Deroy Conaster with 1.  The Raiders travel to Barbourville this weekend for a tournament appearance with games against Middlesboro, Oneida Baptist Institute and Barbourville. They take on Pulaski County next Tuesday in Somerset.

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