PARK HILLS — Saturday night, Mineral Area College celebrated its 2013 Homecoming in a big way. Not only with all the festivities, including a win by the women’s basketball team, but the Cardinals capped off the night with a one-point thriller, beating the State Fair Roadrunners 74-73 on a pair of free throws late in the game.
Those free throws came from the hands of MAC’s leading scorer Jay Raulston. Raulston earned the line privileges after rebounding a missed lay-up by Shaquille Boga, and upon trying to put the ball back up, took a hit which left a State Fair player on the floor for an extended injury time-out.
Raulston scored 24 points and made 12 rebounds to lead all players in both categories.
Raulston came back to the line to calmly sink the first of a one-and-one to tie the game and send Mineral Area fans into an uproar which they overly matched as he sank the second.
The free throws left 5.4 seconds on the clock to give the Roadrunners one last try, but a solid wall of defenders just inside the half-court line, forced State Fair’s Kenny Chery to rush a long try that fell way short as the buzzer sounded the Cardinals win.
Chery tried a flop to gain the official’s attention, but the refs didn’t buy into it as they rushed off the court and the fans rushed out to celebrate.
The parity in JUCO’s Region 16 changed MAC’s prospects dramatically for capturing the last regular season win. It lifted the Cardinals from a possible fifth-place finish in the six team Region, all the way to second place, insuring them of a berth in the semi-finals this Friday at Three Rivers against none other than State Fair.
It took three minutes for the Cardinals to get on the board on a basket by Denzel Reed as MAC’s defense did not allow the Roadrunners to run away in the early going. Denzel finished with 20 points in the game.
Trailing 22-21 late in the quarter , Raulston started an 8-0 streak by slamming one down on a full-court feed from Reed. The Cardinals went on to hold the seven-point edge until the half.
The lead expanded to 14 at one point early in the second half, but for the first eight minutes it stayed right at 10. State Fair began to whittle away, as Joe Thomasson hit two threes on the way and Jacob Williams added another. Both Thomasson and Williams led State Fair scoring with 18 points each.
On a play where Mineral Area was called for a goal tend, Kenny Chery (12) scored a conventional three for State Fair to tie the score at 59-59 with 8:08 left to go.
The Roadrunners took their first lead, since a first-half 17-16 score, at 62-61 on a three by Kevin Punter. The two teams battled for the lead until it was knotted again at 69-69 with only 2:30 to go. State Fair called time to set up a defensive play, with MAC having the ball out of bounds and only 12 seconds left on the shot clock.
A rushed shot by the Cardinals gave the Roadrunners the opportunity to retake the lead. An exchange of free throws left the Cardinals trailing 72-71. Reed sank a pair from the line to give MAC the lead as the last minute began to wind down. Reed scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the game.
Williams hit a short jumper for State Fair with 23 seconds left, and MAC called time with 15 seconds on both game and shot clock. Boga drove from on top of the key to try a heavily contested lay-up which resulted in Raulston’s back-up.
State Fair 30 43 - 73
Mineral Area 37 37 - 74
State Fair - Joe Thomasson 18, Jacob Williams 18, Kenny Chery 14, Kevin Punter 13, Ben Denbow 6, Charles Beard 4. 3-point FG - Thomasson 2, Denbow 2, Punter, Williams. (FT: 13-17).
Mineral Area - Jay Raulston 24, Denzel Reed 20, Shaquille Boga 16, Leon Watkins 7, D’Angelo Tucker 5, Bryce Weibrecht 2. 3-point FG - Watkins, Tucker. (FT: 16-20).