PARK HILLS — A change of venue made no difference on the outcome of a basketball game between the Mineral Area Cardinals and the SW Illinois Blue Storm. The end result was the same. Just eight days after defeating the Blue Storm by one point at their gym, the two teams both improved their scoring by two points with the Cardinals again prevailing by one, 65-64, this time at the Bob Sechrest, Sr. Fieldhouse.
For 39 minutes and 57.5 seconds, it was anybody’s guess as to who would win the contest as both teams battled back and forth with most of the game being played with only one point separating the two.
Even though the Cardinals had to fight from behind for most of the game, they constantly kept surging back each time until the breaks turned their way. Twice in the second half the Blue Storm gained a seven-point lead, only to have the Cardinals pull to within one.
Mineral Area struggled from beyond the arc, making only 1-12 in the early going of the second half, which helped produce the irony of the Cardinals win.
Shaquille Boga nailed a three to tie the game at 60-60 to start the final minute of play, but a foul by the Cardinals put Jaquail Townser on the line with 25 seconds still left. Townser made one of two to regain the lead for the visitors, leaving MAC the ball with a chance to win with any basket. Coach Corey Tate called time after the ball crossed half-court with 11.5 second left to set up the last play.
With Boga taking the inbound pass, the guard passed off to Leon Watkins on the left wing, and the freshman buried a three with only 2.5 left on the clock.
“Watkins shooting the three was one of the options we discussed during our time-out,” answered Coach Corey Tate after the game when questioned about the play after the Cardinals had struggled beyond the arc for most of the half. “They had confidence they could do that, and they showed it tonight, and you want them to have that type of confidence in a game.”
In the mayhem of celebration that followed the shot, even the referees’ whistles could not be heard, signaling a time-out called by the Blue Storm coach. Not hearing the whistle, the Blue Storm players inbounded the ball and the clock ran off, only to have the referees wave off the play to allow the time-out and to reset the clock.
Once back in play, a long pass resulted in an interception by Boga and a subsequent foul that still left 0.8 seconds to play which erupted another wave of celebration by MAC fans. Boga sank both free throws to make it a four-point game, and as things turned out, it was a good thing he made both.
Tony Bradley took the inbound pass near MAC’s free throw line, turned and banked in a three-quarter court shot as the horn sounded, which the referees signaled it counted because he got the shot off in time.
The Cardinals (8-1) were hot from beyond the arc to start the game with D’Angelo Tucker sailing home two from the left corner and Watkins making his first of four on the night to give the Cardinals a 9-2 lead. In a game which the score was tied eight different times, five were in the first half.
Sam Strus hit a three to tie the score at 27-27 and also start a seven-point run by the Blue Storm late in the half. Watkins cut the lead to three with his second three-pointer, but 6’11 Keanau Post used a sky hook to score a quick two only to leave just enough time for Watkins to negate it with a 15 foot shot at the buzzer for a 38-35 half-time score.
A free throw by Watkins to start the second half, and a feed underneath by Boga to Quantel Denson off of an offensive rebound tied the score at 38.
Play on both sides was very aggressive throughout the game with players going to the line 30 different times to shoot a total of 58 free throws.
Watkins led all players in scoring with 24 points, and Boga finished with 16. Trae Anderson led the Blue Storm with 21 points, with Bradley scoring 16.
The Cardinals’ next game is on Thanksgiving at the Southeastern Iowa Classic in Burlington, IA against Black Hawk East College.
SW Illinois 38 26 - 64
Mineral Area 35 30 - 65
SW Illinois - Trae Anderson 21, Tony Bradley 16, Dylan Chatman 9, Keanau Post 8, Jaquail Townser 3, Sam Strus 3, Marvin Jones 2, Brandon Book 1, Matt Piotrowski 1. 3-point FG - Chatman 2, Bradley, Strus. (FT: 22-30).
Mineral Area - Leon Watkins 24, Shaquille Boga 16, Quantel Denson 10, D’Angelo Tucker 6, Orlando Johnson 4, Denzel Reed 2, Keenan Clark 2, Jay Raulston 1. 3-point FG - Watkins 4, Boga 2, Tucker 2. (FT: 19-28).