PARK HILLS — A formidable home crowd was treated to a positive first impression from a Mineral Area men’s basketball squad that repeatedly struggled to find scoring depth last season.
Six players reached double figures in a balanced offensive attack Friday night, and the Cardinals began their home schedule by dismantling last year’s 4th-place finisher at the NJCAA national tournament.
Leon Watkins scored a game-high 16 points, Shaquille Boga and Quantel Denson added 14 each, and MAC forced 20 turnovers to defeat Eastern Oklahoma 93-59 at the Bob Sechrest Classic.
Sophomore Jay Raulston tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds for Mineral Area (6-1), which drained its first three shots from 3-point range, and was 7-of-12 overall during a dominant first half.
The Mountaineers, guided by former Southeast Missouri State head coach Scott Edgar, showed no resemblance to a recent final four participant after making the nearly 8-hour journey from Wilburton, Okla.
Much of the Cardinals’ early success stemmed from patience, using kickout passes from the interior to find open shooters.
Strong effort along the boards created numerous second chances, and Mineral Area was never in danger after building a 46-24 halftime lead.
D’Angelo Tucker buried early three triples and scored 11 points to match sophomore center Quantel Denson, who officially signed with SEC program Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Watkins and Denson hit back-to-back threes for a 24-13 advantage, and Boga beat his defender for a pair of subsequent pull-up jumpers.
Raulston delivered a frontcourt steal and slam, then made it 32-17 with a putback. The Cardinals, who converted 19-of-24 free throws, closed the stanza with an important 12-2 run.
Allen Farmer and Rod Lewis each netted 10 points each to pace Eastern Oklahoma (2-1), which pulled within 52-38 after Kymer Levy completed a 3-point play following a strong baseline drive.
Mineral Area allowed two offensive rebounds during that sequence after Farmer had scored on three consecutive trips, but corrected a series of empty possessions with a 13-3 scoring spurt out of a timeout.
Boga slashed through the lane for an uncontested layup, and the Cardinals surged ahead 77-46 as Jackson Conaway broke his recent perimeter slump with a corner 3-pointer.
MAC will host Kennedy-King in Saturday’s tournament finale at 7 p.m. The previous game will pit Eastern Oklahoma against Three Rivers.
Eastern Oklahoma 24 35 - 59
Mineral Area 46 47 - 93
Eastern Oklahoma - Allen Farmer 10, Rod Lewis 10, Kymer Levy 7, T Kwon Thompson 6, Devaughn Purcell 6, Dontavious Sears 4, Alfonzie Wilson 4, Dan Wong 3, Donald Marshall 3, Iman Johnson 2, Chauncy Parker 2, Terrance Majahid 2. 3-point FG - Farmer 2, Marshall, Thompson, Lewis. (FT: 16-22)
Mineral Area - Leon Watkins 16, Shaquille Boga 14, Quantel Denson 14, D’Angelo Tucker 11, Bryce Weibrecht 11, Jay Raulston 10, Jackson Conoway 6, Denzel Reed 5, Mark Nolen 2, Jean-Marc Lucien 2, Jack Walls 2. 3-point FG - Watkins 3, Tucker 3, Denson 2, Conoway, Weibrecht. (FT: 19-24).