HUTCHINSON, Kan. -- College of Southern Idaho coach Fred Trenkle said for two days that there are no blowouts in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament championship bracket.
Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles in their semifinal game at Hutchinson Sports Arena last night, Trenkle was correct.
CSI, led by a trio of players from Baltimore's Southern High School, waltzed to a 49-28 halftime lead before Three Rivers Community College of Popplar Bluff, Mo., turned the game around to take a 76-74 victory.
Southern's Craig Tyson, who averaged 22.5 points in the first two tournament games, scored only 10. Two other Southern High graduates, Adam Johnson and David Cason, scored six and two, respectively.
Three Rivers, 34-3, moves into tonight's title game with thwinner of Butler County-Vincennes. CSI, 33-4, plays that loser for third place.
The Raiders, after shooting 29 percent (9-for-31) from the field in the first half, made eight of 16 three-point attempts after intermission to tie the game.
"We had no intention to sit on the lead," Trenkle said. "Give them credit. They made a heck of a comeback. They hit a lot of threes."
When the Eagles switched from a rare zone to man-to-man defense, 6-foot-7 freshman Brian Price scored inside on three straight trips down the floor for Three Rivers. Price's first score in the string gave the Raiders their first lead of the half, 68-67, with 3:22 to go.
Price, who scored 17 points, hit a baseline turnaround to put Three Rivers up 70-67 with 1:54 left.
The Raiders pushed the lead to 74-69 going into the last minute.
"We just had a lot of momentum going," said Three Rivers Coach Gene Bess, whose team lost to CSI in the semifinals two years ago. "They had just lost a lead and they were depressed."
Clayton Johnson scored off a rebound with eight seconds to play to get CSI within 74-71. Point guard Anthony Beane dropped in two free throws with six seconds showing to seal the Raiders' berth in the championship game.
Except for a six-point Golden Eagle run that bounced the lead back to 56-38, Three Rivers controlled the second half. The Raiders first got the lead under 10 at 56-49 on Belvis Noland's three-pointer with 12:30 on the clock. Eric Schweain's three-pointer from the corner with 5:08 to play tied the game at 63.
"We just told them in 10 minutes we wanted to be within 10," Bess said of his halftime talk.
The Eagles led again 67-63 after layups by Cason and Tony Harris. Three Rivers answered with the next seven points. The revolving door that saw Three Rivers reverse its game, had CSI shooting 19-for-28 in the first half and 10-for-29 the last 20 minutes.
"We were doing the same things that got us the lead," Trenkle said. "When the kids were cutting, they weren't cutting as hard, and people weren't seeing them."
Starting the game as they finished it, the Raiders scored the first five points. After a tie game at 12, the Eagles hit the next 16 points. Lance Jackson sparked CSI with nine points in a 21-6 spurt.