PARK HILLS – With an anticipated road rematch against Moberly looming this weekend, the Mineral Area men’s basketball team kept its attention squarely focused on the task at hand.
The fourth-ranked Cardinals dismantled MSU-West Plains with repeated transition baskets and high-percentage shots in the post to prevail 97-62 in a Region 16 contest on Wednesday night.
Zac Cuthbertson equaled his season high with 27 points, and Devin Thomas compiled 24 points with nine rebounds as the starting forwards consistently received effective entry passes.
Mineral Area (24-0, 5-0) extended its school-record win streak, and would clinch the top seed for the upcoming Region 16 tournament by defeating Moberly on Saturday.
The second showdown with MSU-West Plains bore no resemblance to the overtime thriller that the Cardinals narrowly escaped just 16 days earlier.
Despite the lopsided final margin, the action contained nine early lead changes as the visiting Grizzlies knocked down four 3-pointers for a 14-10 advantage.
Mineral Area scored on its first four possessions of the game, including a pair of driving layups from sophomore guard Shawn Roundtree, and never deviated from its plan to attack the rim.
MSU-West Plains moved in front for the final time at 21-20 on a powerful finish by Darnell Butler, but 14 first-half turnovers eventually rendered their toll.
The Cardinals were aggressive in pursuing and deflecting passes. Roundtree and teammate Djibril Diallo each made two steals during a brilliant 17-2 run that covered nearly five minutes.
Amar Miller, who piled up several assists, used a nifty stop and spin to sink a 7-footer in the lane. Diallo cashed in an ensuing steal with a fast-break layup to help create a 37-23 lead.
Cuthbertson threw down a pair of dunks prior to intermission, and Thomas put back his own miss inside to leave MSU-West Plains stunned in a 47-27 deficit.
Lane Duncan buried a corner triple to bring the Grizzlies within 49-34, and netted a team-high 11 points to match Stefan Lakic, who erupted for 30 in his previous effort against Mineral Area.
But the blowout resumed from there. Roundtree connected from deep off a kickout feed, and Thomas finished a bullet pass from Kohl-Ross with a contested dunk and free throw for a 72-48 margin.
Cuthbertson recorded seven field goals after the break. He hammered down a dazzling slam after lifting off just inside the foul line, and elevated his 48 percent average from 3-point range by going 2-of-3.
Roundtree finished with 18 points and Diallo added 12 to give MAC four players in double figures. Only six combined fouls were called in the first half.
Tyler Kohl-Ross returned from a lengthy suspension for the Cardinals, and immediately made a diving play in front of two standing opponents to deflect the ball away and save a possession.
Mineral Area was a perfect 6-of-6 from the line.
Ricky Torres chipped in 10 points for the Grizzlies (10-13, 1-3).