POPLAR BLUFF - SMSU-West Plains coach Tom Barr pumped his fist in the air, then leapt into the arms of one of his players.
But that was just the beginning of his postgame celebration.
Barr ran crosscourt and signaled thumbs-up to a large group of Grizzly fans, then caught his daughter Kerensa in a big bear hug. After his team held off a furious rally to win for the first time ever in the Black River Coliseum, the former Three Rivers assistant had reason to be excited.
"We feel really good about winning," Barr said after West Plains built a 22-point second-half lead and held off the Raiders 96-90 Saturday afternoon.
"We've only got in 9 or 10 years one win over here. They're few and far between, so I was glad for that."
While Barr and company whooped it up, Three Rivers moped off the court with another heartbreaking home loss. Once a nearly impossible place for opponents to win, it's been easy pickings for opponents at the Coliseum this season. The Raiders (15-11, 3-4) have dropped three games at their off-campus home this year, triple the amount they lost in their first 40 Coliseum games.
"We've made a lot of people happy this year," Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said. "We've made 11 people happy by losses, then multiply that by six or seven because there are a lot of other people happy to see us not do well."
Things didn't go well early for the Raiders. In similar fashion as the first meeting between the rival schools, Three Rivers fell behind big, only to rally with a furious comeback. But both times the Raiders fell just short.
Trailing by 22 with 14:25 left, the Raiders got as close as two points with just over two minutes left and had possession down three with 1:25 left, but they couldn't complete the rally. The Grizzlies got a big steal, then converted eight straight free throws down the stretch to hold on.
"It's the same ol' Three Rivers team. They're not going to quit and we knew that," Barr said. "Not once did we ever think we had the game won because we knew they would fight back and they did. But I give our guys credit, too. They hit a lot of free throws under pressure with Three Rivers having the momentum. I want to give our guys a lot of credit for hanging on."
West Plains (19-7, 5-1) got a big game from sophomore swingman Terrell Everett. One of the favorites for Region Player of the Year honors, Everett had 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.
He hit four clutch consecutive free throws when Three Rivers pulled within two in the final minutes.
Matt Gibson shook off a slow start to score a game-high 32 points. Freshman center Danijel Zoric scored 11 while power forwards Chris Carr and Derrell Minner had 10 apiece. The Raiders shot 48.5 percent, but they were just 3-of-17 from downtown and were outrebounded 34-22.
"I asked one of my players why he let those guys get a rebound on a free throw and he said he was getting in too quick," Bess said. "He said he told the referee and I said, 'No, you're missing the point. You can't let another guy get in before you.' That's the logic of my players. I don't understand it."
Beginning with a basket on the opening tip, the Grizzlies took control early. They got the game's first two baskets and led 13-6 when Everett scored while being fouled less than four minutes in. Three Rivers got within three on a Dereke Tipler basket before Joe Kissee buried consecutive 3-pointers during a quick 12-2 run that gave West Plains a 29-16 lead.
That advantage grew to 17 when center Chris Aline scored in the paint a few minutes later.