PARK HILLS – Mineral Area head coach Luke Strege noted the advantage of hosting a midweek Region 16 game rather than having to travel after a full day of classes.
His basketball team capitalized with an electric second half, and avenged an earlier setback to MSU-West Plains by slowing down its lethal shooters on Wednesday night.
Roman Young scored 18 of his game-high 22 points after the intermission, and added four steals to help the Cardinals outlast the 21st-ranked Grizzlies 84-69.
Lance Singh netted 17 points and Maurice Edwards had 14 as the main offensive options in the first half. Zach Cameron contributed 12 points, including four dunks, later for Mineral Area (19-5. 3-2).
The contest featured 10 lead changes, and Young factored heavily in a 13-1 outburst as the Cardinals turned steals, blocks and deflected passes into explosive transition baskets.
He answered a hanging bank shot by Radshad Davis with a 3-pointer to restore a 58-53 edge, and would connect again during the run. A steal eventually set up a corner triple by Jamie Ahale at 68-54.
“West Plains is the best team that we’ve played, but it’s really hard in this region on a Wednesday to win a road game,” Strege said. “First, you go to class, and then get on a bus for four hours… We were just able to make about a 5-minute run with some energy in the second half. At their place, in that situation, I think this game might have been a little different.”
Davis tipped in a missed shot, and Niekie Thomas made a fast-break layup as MSU-West Plains (20-5, 2-2) tallied the next six points. But Young beat the Grizzlies to the rim for back-to-back scores.
Cameron, who was held scoreless before halftime, sealed the outcome by throwing down a lob from Singh to make it 80-68 in the final minute.
The Cardinals relied on Cameron to shoulder extensive playing time down the stretch after fellow center Kevin Hamlet picked up his third and fourth fouls with about 12 minutes remaining.
“Zach is so dynamic athletically. He can change a game without even scoring,” Strege said. “It was just a matter of time until he got going. I thought our guards did a great job of handling pressure and getting by when they extended out to find Zach.”
Davis posted 22 points, and Johde Campbell added 14 for the Grizzlies, who grabbed a 38-34 halftime advantage after successfully feeding the ball inside.
But the Cardinals showed drastic improvement from their previous road loss in West Plains by holding standout guard Ricky Torres to just seven points after he sank eight 3-pointers in the first meeting.
Cameron recorded the first two baskets of the second half, and Young followed with a steal and assist to a streaking Bobby Parker for a 40-38 lead.
Torres landed his lone triple of the night moments later, and MSU-West Plains regained a 47-42 edge before 3-pointers by Ahale and Young pushed MAC in front 50-49.
“I thought we did an outstanding job of guarding him,” Strege said. “We adjusted to take away some jump shots and make him drive to the rim.”
Singh gave the Cardinals an ideal start with two early perimeter jumpers, and they maintained a lead throughout the first 10 minutes.
Edwards slashed with success on several occasions, either finishing in traffic or drawing fouls in the process. He also struck with an open 21-footer.
MSU-West Plains secured its first advantage of 20-19 as the teams alternated four field goals over an entertaining span of 50 seconds.
Burone Edwards ignited a 9-3 surge by the visitors to close the half from long range, and Torres hit a transition layup before the Cardinals could retreat moments later.
“In the first half, they were really packed in defensively. We were getting outstanding shots, layups and wide-open threes for guys who usually make them, and we just couldn’t finish," Strege said. "We saw early on that the game was there for the taking. We had to get tougher on offense.”
Mineral Area set a scrappy tone from the outset as Ahale – recognized more often for his shooting prowess – and Young each dived to the floor to save offensive rebounds and set up eventual second-chance baskets.
“Jamie has adjusted more to American basketball to become more than just a shooter,” Strege said. “He is rebounding well with two hands and defending now. He’s really helping us in a number of ways.”
Parker had seven points and eight rebounds for the Cardinals, who will face another challenge at home Saturday against No. 12 Moberly, hoping to avenge a frustrating overtime loss.