PARK HILLS — The Mineral Area women’s basketball team flourished during the opening segment of each half on Tuesday, and began its journey through the Region XVI tournament by topping Crowder 81-59 in the first round.
Sophomore center Tayla Corrigan scored a game-high 21 points and Kasia Kiejdrowska netted 19 as the Lady Cardinals immediately set an aggressive tone at both ends of the court.
Mineral Area (17-11) forced 16 first-half turnovers and never trailed after Corrigan and M.J. Buschmann combined forces on an opening 8-0 run.
Buschmann compiled 14 points with nine rebounds and six steals, and the Lady Cards avenged an unsightly loss in Neosho from earlier this month.
Mineral Area hopes to utilize its familiar surroundings in the postseason as the tournament host, and has earned a third matchup this season with top seed State Fair in a 5 p.m. semifinal on Friday.
Crowder (10-20) was powered by post players Ariana Gallegos and Mariana Gallegos with 13 and 12 points, respectively, while guards Dorian Briggs and Tae’lor Monroe added 10 apiece.
The Lady Roughriders shot 55 percent from the field before halftime, but could not overcome their repeated miscues during that same span.
Kiejdrowska beat the shot clock with a runner off the glass to yield the first double-digit lead for MAC, then drained a 3-pointer as a brief 9-0 run widened the margin to 28-12.
Crowder mounted a 10-0 response while MAC rested many of its starters. Courtney Jones made a spinning layup and Gallegos capped it with a putback, but the separation never dipped below six points.
Larra Kubinski added 10 points and played extensive minutes off the MAC bench with Corrigan and Buschmann facing foul trouble. Her basket with time winding down gave the Lady Cardinals a 41-33 advantage at the break.
Mineral Area essentially put the contest out of reach with an energetic 16-2 run out of the locker room, pushing the lead to 57-35.
The first points of that sequence occurred when U’Knique Gaines hit the floor with an offensive rebound and shoveled it to Buschmann for a layup.
Corrigan used her 6-foot-4 frame to score seven second-half baskets over the Crowder forwards, including a 3-point play to make it 69-49.
Free throws were kind to both squads as Mineral Area made 16-of-20 and Crowder converted 17-of-21.
Gaines went 6-of-7 from the line, and tallied 10 points to become the fifth Mineral Area player in double figures.
Riley Reddin dished out eight assists in the victory. MAC was again without injured guard and key offensive weapon Robneisha Lee.
Jefferson upset 3rd-seeded Three Rivers in the other first-round game on Tuesday, and will play Moberly in the semifinal round.
Crowder 33 26 - 59
Mineral Area 41 40 - 81
Crowder - Ariana Gallegos 13, Mariana Silva 12, Dorian Briggs 10, Tae’lor Monroe 10, Katie Hughes 6, Courtney Jones 4, Tiffany Rhame 4. 3-point FG - None. (FT: 17-21)
Mineral Area - Tayla Corrigan 21, Kasia Kiejdrowska 19, M.J. Buschmann 14, Larra Kubinski 10, U’Knique Gaines 10, Alayah Cooper-Johnson 3, Ashley Ward 2, Darrieon Clark 2. 3-point FG - Kiejdrowska 3. (FT: 16-20).