PARK HILLS — The Mineral Area men’s basketball team failed to generate much offense inside the perimeter, and could not contain post player Chris Evans while dropping its home opener on Friday night.
Evans compiled 27 points with 11 rebounds and made a pivotal defensive block to help Wabash Valley preserve a 68-64 victory, as the 15th-ranked squad in the nation rallied late to remain undefeated.
Wabash Valley (7-0) limited Mineral Area without a 2-point field goal throughout a 12-minute stretch during the second half, and enjoyed a decisive edge at the free-throw line by converting 19-of-28 overall.
Mineral Area (4-3) drained a dozen 3-pointers in the game, including five by sophomore Riley Raulston, but finished just 8-of-21 from the stripe. Raulston tallied 19 points while Brier West added 12 points with four assists.
The Cardinals built their largest advantage of 54-47 when freshman guard DeAndre Ballard connected from an open left corner, and led 61-56 following West’s triple off an inbounds play with 3:39 remaining.
But Evans countered with a clean steal and slam after the Warriors had misfired from long range, then muscled his way through a double team for another basket in the paint.
Pressing defense rattled Mineral Area into two more critical turnovers down the stretch. Ian Chiles turned a loose ball into the go-ahead dunk with 37 seconds left after tying the score at 62-62 with two free throws.
The Cardinals nearly pulled even despite being called for traveling on their ensuing possession, as MAC center Demetrius Harris stole a baseline inbounds pass, but his potential dunk was rejected by Evans near the rim.
Donovan Johnson’s perfect trip to the line with 9 seconds left sealed the outcome. Chiles finished with 14 points and D’Mitri Riggs netted 13 for the Warriors, who will face Three Rivers tonight in the Bob Sechrest Classic.
Mineral Area trailed throughout the opening stanza until West found Raulston along the right wing for a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Back-to-back threes from Raulston would extend the 38-37 intermission margin.
Wabash Valley achieved its maximum lead of 16-7 on Chiles’ driving layup after sharp entry passes from the perimeter created two dunks for Evans during an initial 8-0 scoring run.
The Cardinals earned numerous second chances by crashing the boards with the first half winding toward a close, and surged back with a 14-6 spurt sparked by Errol Isom’s putback.
Isom pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds for Mineral Area, which will challenge perennial power Indian Hills tonight at 7 p.m.
Wabash Valley 37 31 - 68
Mineral Area 38 26 - 64
Wabash Valley - Chris Evans 27, Ian Chiles 14, D’Mitri Riggs 13, Donovan Johnson 8, DavRon Williams 4. Kreig Oxley 1, Shaquille Wilson 1. 3-point FG - Riggs 2, Evans. FT- 19/28
Mineral Area - Riley Raulston 19, Brier West 12, Darrion Hooker 7, DeAndre Ballard 6, Errol Isom 5, Leland Smith 5, Demetrius Harris 4, Vakhtang Kadaria 3, Drew Thomas 2, Josh Minner 1. 3-point FG - Raulston 5, West 3, Ballard 2, Smith, Hooker. FT - 8/21