JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Mineral Area men’s basketball will now have to hope that a brilliant and historic regular season will resonate with the NJCAA Division I tournament selection committee.
Foul trouble haunted the ninth-ranked Cardinals again on Friday night as rival Three Rivers withstood a late comeback bid to prevail 71-70 in the Region 16 tournament semifinal round.
Sophomore guard Camron Reedus pumped in a game-high 25 points, and buried three huge jumpers in a row as the third-seeded Raiders surged ahead 53-42 in the second half.
Five separate Mineral Area players had collected three fouls at that juncture, and Three Rivers capitalized by going 29-of-45 from the line overall.
Gabe Grant added 12 points and Aidan Saunders contributed 10 for the Raiders (24-7), who will meet a short-handed Moberly squad for the region title on Saturday night.
Djibril Diallo netted a team-high 16 points in 17 minutes of action for the Cardinals (28-3), who squarely sit on a thin bubble with only four tournament at-large bids available.
Mineral Area grabbed a 34-31 lead after Lamar Morgan sank a 3-pointer and Zac Cuthbertson drove end to end for a layup to beat the halftime buzzer.
Darius Thompson opened the second half with a successful runner, but MAC managed to make only 15-of-30 free throws and faced a 12-point deficit with about six minutes left.
Diallo drilled a 3-pointer with 1:22 remaining to bring MAC within 64-61. But the Cardinals failed to grab two rebounds on the ensuing possession, and Grant drilled a turn-around jumper.
Tyler Kohl-Ross cut the margin to 69-67 by making two free throws with 5.8 seconds on the clock, but a perfect pair in response from Saunders sealed the outcome.
Kohl-Ross scored 15 points while Shawn Roundtree added 14 and Cuthbertson totaled 10 as Mineral Area suffered its second defeat against Three Rivers in three meetings.
Consecutive 3-pointers by Diallo and Morgan pushed the Cardinals to an early 18-14 lead. MAC dropped three of its last seven games after starting 24-0.