SEDALIA, Mo. – Despite having its regular rotation of players severely depleted, the Mineral Area men’s basketball team mounted a spirited rally during the second half on Saturday night.
A stunning 28-8 run gave the visiting Cardinals a nine-point advantage with less than three minutes to play, but that momentum was not enough to carry them over the finish line.
State Fair delivered a 15-2 counter that included four clutch 3-pointers and multiple steals, and secured a 71-67 triumph in the regular season finale.
LePear Toles drained a triple with 1:07 remaining that put the Roadrunners ahead to stay at 68-67, just seconds after Mineral Area center Zach Cameron dunked a lob from Maurice Edwards.
Andre Walker stole an errant pass on the ensuing possession, and Christian Brown connected again from long range. A lost dribble then sealed the Cardinals’ fate.
Toles finished with 12 points, including a thunderous slam through contact and free throw that spotted the host squad an early 23-10 lead. Tim Leavell added 11 to the balanced State Fair attack.
The outcome ultimately decided the No. 2 seed, but otherwise had no bearing on the five-team Region 16 tournament. State Fair (19-9, 4-4) and Mineral Area (22-8, 4-4) will meet again Thursday night in the semifinal round at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
Edwards paced Mineral Area with 15 points, and became a catalyst within the comeback by attacking the basket for five separate layups or runners.
Cameron totaled 14 points and Lance Singh netted 12, although increased playing time contributed to each collecting three personal fouls prior to halftime.
Roman Young saw less than three minutes of action because of an ailing shoulder, and Bobby Parker missed his fifth straight game with an injured knee.
But the Cardinals persevered to negate a maximum 17-point deficit and slightly smaller 41-25 difference at intermission. Kevin Hamlet recorded two baskets in the post, and Jamie Ahale hit a putback ahead of his customary 3-pointer to bring MAC within 50-43.
Singh threw down a dunk of his own, and Dmonta Harris scored off a steal before Edwards put Mineral Area ahead for the first time at 54-52 on a left-handed finish.
Edwards slashed through the Roadrunners twice more to eventually create a 65-56 margin. Hamlet had 12 points and Ahale notched 10, giving Mineral Area five players in double figures.
State Fair stormed back with perimeter strikes from Dominic Fragola and Brown, then drew even when Tyreek Scott-Grayson powered in a conventional 3-point play.
The Cardinals converted 19-of-31 free throws overall, but immediately trailed 8-0 until a Cameron dunk snapped their three-minute opening drought.