PARK HILLS – Longtime nemesis Three Rivers returned the favor Saturday night after blowing a double-digit, second-half lead against the Mineral Area men’s basketball team last month.
The Raiders thrived along the offensive glass and from the line to seize a 70-68 victory that weakened the Cardinals’ position for one of four available NJCAA tournament at-large berths.
The home loss was the first this season for seventh-ranked Mineral Area (26-2, 5-2), which squandered a chance to strengthen its postseason résumé with one more quality win.
Aidan Saunders scored a game-high 21 points, and his mid-range floater handed Three Rivers (22-7, 5-3) a 68-64 edge with 40 seconds remaining.
The clutch shot followed two offensive rebounds moments after Raiders guard Camron Reedus drew a charging call that wiped out a potential tying layup by MAC freshman Amar Miller.
Shawn Roundtree cut along the baseline and scored with 13.8 seconds left to bring the Cardinals within 69-68. An ensuing attempt to force a trapping turnover in the backcourt was halted by a timeout.
Mineral Area had five seconds to drive the length of the court after Sadaeys Miller split two free throws. But an outlet pass that Tyler Kohl-Ross intended for Darius Thompson instead struck teammate Djibril Diallo in the back of the head and caromed out of bounds.
Kavion Pippen compiled 15 points and 12 rebounds off the bench, and Reedus scored 12 as the Raiders sank 30-of-42 attempts from the line compared to 20-of-26 by the Cardinals.
Emotions simmered throughout another foul-plagued rivalry showdown, and escalated after the final buzzer when players and coaches congregated to exchange words near midcourt.
The teams will meet again one week from Friday in the Region 16 semifinal round in Jefferson City, Mo. Moberly clinched the top seed Saturday with an 81-61 triumph over State Fair.
Lamar Morgan and Zac Cuthbertson each netted 12 points for the Cardinals, who opened the second half with a quick 7-0 run by pushing the tempo.
Roundtree made a steal and layup, and Morgan dunked for a 36-26 MAC lead after three defenders converged to induce a Cuthbertson steal.
But erratic whistles factored heavily in a game that contained 55 total fouls. Both teams reached the double bonus less than nine minutes into the second half.
Cuthbertson corralled eight of his nine rebounds before intermission, but fouled out to his astonishment 35 feet from the basket with 8:44 to play.
An earlier double technical against Cardinals sophomore Devin Thomas and Raiders freshman Ronnie Carson left Mineral Area with both starting post players on the bench during a pivotal stretch.
Three Rivers surged back with a 13-2 run – sparked by driving layups from Gabe Grant and Jeffery Porter – and moved in front 39-38.
Kohl-Ross trimmed a six-point MAC deficit to three with a second-chance basket with contact, but Pippen hit two tough shots inside to help the Raiders restore a 61-56 edge.
Three Rivers coach Gene Bess picked up career victory No. 1,253, most in college basketball history.
Miller and Kohl-Ross each scored nine points for Mineral Area, which will close out the regular season this week against the Central Methodist junior varsity and State Fair.
The Cardinals finished with 18 turnovers, including five over the first 4:38 of action. Amar Miller hit a 3-pointer and transition layup, however, as a 7-0 spurt propelled Mineral Area to a 23-18 lead.
Saunders opened the game with back-to-back jumpers, and converted 6-of-6 free throws.
Carson was ejected after being assessed his second technical foul.