Bess didn't get a snowout, but he didn't get another gut-wrenching performance either.
The Raiders opened the second half with a 13-0 run to break open a tight game, then cruised to a 103-68 victory against South Suburban Saturday night at the Black River Coliseum. The victory snapped Three Rivers' second three-game losing skid of the season.
South Suburban managed to stay close in the first half, trailing by just three at the half. But the Bulldogs, who dressed just six players, couldn't keep pace with the Raiders' deep bench. By the time they got their first basket of the second half, Three Rivers was ahead 52-38.
"I was kind of torn between wanting this game snowed out or hoping they showed up short-handed," Bess said. "I got one of my wishes."
Dereke Tipler just missed a triple-double, finishing with 15 points, 10 assists and nine steals. Matt Gibson hit four 3-pointers en route to a team-high 22 points for the Raiders, whose bench outscored South Suburban 61-14.
The win gives Three Rivers (8-6) some much-needed momentum going into a two-week holiday break. It's been a frustrating first half of the season for the Raiders, who have already lost more games than 11 teams in Bess' 34-year tenure.
Bess shook up his lineup, benching starters Derrell Minner and Chris Carr in favor of Loic Toiler and Danijel Zoric. Carr played a season-low nine minutes and regular contributors Leonard Bishop Jr. and Nick Covington each played less than seven minutes in mop-up duty.
"We've got so many underachievers it's driving me bananas. I'll be honest with you, we don't know who can play," Bess said. "I think we've got a lot of players that came in here thinking they're all-everything and they don't realize the level of competition we have here. If we don't get our level up and get people competing against each other, we're going to be more of the same -- a lot of great mediocrity."
The Raiders looked frustratingly mediocre in the first half before finding their groove after halftime.
Tipler had assists to Steve Deken, C.J. Hadley and Zoric on consecutive possessions as Three Rivers rattled off 13 unanswered points. One of those points came when Tipler hit a technical free throw after South Suburban's Adam Hardney slammed the ball in frustration of a foul call.
The lead reached 19 when Tipler threaded the needle to Deken for a 3-point play at the 11:46 mark.
Following a Bulldog basket, C.J. Hadley had a tip-in and buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 67-45.
The most satisfying number for Tipler, who came two steals short of a triple-double Wednesday at Forest Park, was the two charges he took.
After getting bowled over midway through the second half, he hopped to his feat and flashed a thumbs-up to the bench.
"Coach says I'm about the toughest guy he knows, but I'm not tough enough to take a charge," Tipler said. "I wanted to come out and impress the coaches and I did that with the charges."