PARK HILLS — A resilient effort at the defensive end helped Mineral Area contain dangerous MSU-West Plains and capture a much-needed first win in Region XVI play on Wednesday night.
Anthony Virdure scored a team-high 14 points and the Cardinals survived a final scare in the closing seconds to prevail 56-55 and avenge a road setback from earlier this month.
Mineral Area (13-11, 1-4) managed to lead the entire contest, but that advantage remained extremely fragile down the stretch. Orlando Johnson added 11 points in the victory.
MSU-West Plains (15-9, 2-2) was easily paced by 6-foot-9 forward Justin Jamison, a likely Division I recruit who compiled 20 points and 13 rebounds with Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith in attendance.
The Grizzlies made 17-of-23 free throws compared just 3-of-9 for MAC, and used that advantage to whittle down an original 12-point deficit.
Jamison netted the game’s final points on a putback with 37 seconds left, and an ensuing stop gave the visiting Grizzlies a chance to go in front.
Arroyo Edwards lost possession during a 2-on-1 fast break, and alternating possession went to Mineral Area following a wild scramble for the ball.
MSU-West Plains immediately called timeout with 3 seconds after Randy Holmes missed the front end at the line. But the Cardinals forced a short inbounds pass, and Devaugntah Williams missed a half-court heave.
The result brought the Cardinals even with Three Rivers and within a game of MSU-West Plains in the current region standings.
Mineral Area surged to a 9-2 start when sophomore Bryce Weibrecht faked a defender and attacked for a contested slam plus the foul. The Grizzlies hit the midway mark of the first half without achieving double digits.
Virdure knocked down his first attempted shot around a screen to make it 17-8 with 9:56 remaining in the opening stanza.
Baskets in the paint from Weibrecht and Johnson answered a brief 6-0 run from West Plains, and Virdure drilled a 3-pointer for a 31-19 advantage.
The Grizzlies scored four points on its first possession after trailing 33-24 at halftime. Aaron Cassell answered with a 3-pointer for MAC, and a spinning finish by Johnson restored a 42-34 margin.
The momentum began to swing moments later during a disputed sequence. A goal tending violation was not called with MAC leading by six, and Edwards promptly threw down a transition dunk to bring West Plains within 46-42.
Jamison later provided his most impressive highlight with a powerful 2-handed flush while drawing substantial contact on his ascent.
Holmes responded with a tough basket inside, and the Cardinals continued to make timely shots under pressure.
MSU-West Plains cut the difference to two points on a Jeremiah Jackson layup, and made an immediate steal. However, a potential tying dunk from Malik London rattled out after going halfway through the cylinder.
Virdure buried a mid-range jumper to counter, and sank another with 2:01 remaining as Mineral Area rebuilt a 56-51 lead.
Freshman guard Cris Craig grabbed eight rebounds and Holmes added seven for the Cardinals.
Edwards added 11 points for the Grizzlies, who did not make a 3-pointer in the game.
MSU West Plains 24 31 - 55
Mineral Area 33 23 - 56
MSU West Plains - Justin Jamison 20, Arroyo Edwards 11, Jeremiah Jackson 6, Devaugntah Williams 6, Ed Seay, Jr. 6, Malik London 4, Craig Eubanks 2. 3-point FG - None. (FT: 17-23)
Mineral Area - Anthony Virdure 14, Orlando Johnson 11, Aaron Cassell 8, Bryce Weibrecht 7, Randy Holmes 6, Cris Craig 3, Jake White 3, Corey Frazier 2, Malik Brown 2. 3-point FG - Virdure 2, Cassell 2, White. (FT: 3-9)