PARK HILLS — The best start to a Mineral Area women’s basketball season now includes a marquee win worthy of national attention.
It was made possible following a resilient and exhilarating comeback from a team that has noticeably thrived on second-half surges.
Freshman forward Chelsea Roberts scooped a desperation putback off the glass as time expired, and the Lady Cardinals recorded 16 unanswered points Saturday to stun 4th-ranked Iowa Western 82-80 in a thriller.
Roberts, a native of Adelaide, South Australia, compiled 19 of her game-high 25 points in the second half while making 13-of-15 free throws. Her tenacious effort on the boards produced the tying and winning baskets.
Iowa Western missed a forced 3-point attempt and Roberts answered with a physical follow plus the foul at the opposite end. Her subsequent free throw evened the score at 80-80 with 17 seconds left.
Rather than hold for the final shot of regulation, Reivers guard Tyisha Smith attacked and missed strong with a wild runner, leaving the Lady Cardinals just enough time to create a magical finish in transition.
“I looked up at the clock, and was dribbling down knowing that we needed one shot,” sophomore guard Janelle Travis said. “I saw an open lane, and probably had more time to get even closer. I pulled the shot and it bounced off wrong, but thank God that Chelsea was there.”
Travis finished with 18 points as 18th-ranked Mineral Area (13-10) went 26-of-32 overall from the line to notch its eighth consecutive win. Courtney Knuckles and Courtney Fisher added 11 points each.
“I don’t even know what happened there,” Roberts said in describing the decisive shot. “I really thought that we had no chance. But we went on a run and gradually kept on getting closer and closer.”
Iowa Western (14-2) surged ahead 80-66 when broken pressure created an uncontested layup for Alise Karlsone with 3:40 to play, but the visitors were haunted by faulty clock management from there.
The Reivers perhaps needed one more basket to clinch an impressive road win that never arrived. MAC delivered nine straight stops without fouling to help complete the improbable rally.
“Our defense just tightened so well,” said Mineral Area head coach Gary Koch, whose last victory over a top-5 opponent came against Jefferson in January 2011. “You’ve got to hand it to these kids that battled their butts off. I’m really so proud of them.”
The Lady Cardinals pulled to within single digits at 80-71 as Travis calmly drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner.
“Chelsea was double-teamed inside and kicked it out to me when my man sagged,” Travis said. “I knew it was good when it left my hand, and knew we were about to go on a run.”
Katelyn Sager added a key putback and Iowa Western fired a pass out of bounds on the ensuing possession. Travis then buried a pull-up jumper with 1:48 to play as the deficit narrowed to 80-77.
Iowa Western was paced by a lethal perimeter threat, as sophomore guard Bobbi Beckwith had 20 points on a sizzling 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. Leah Scott and Karlsone each chipped in 17 points off the bench.
Mineral Area suffered a setback when forward Brittany Lawson, owner of four double-doubles this season, fouled out with 7:52 to play.
The Reivers instantly capitalized as Smith and Beckwith sank back-to-back triples with hands in their faces, and eventually built a 72-53 cushion.
MAC jumped ahead 14-10 when Joelle Daniel drove the baseline and found Ashleigh Bow open for three. But the Lady Cardinals slowed after picking up their seventh team foul with 11:35 to play in the first half.
Scott rallied Iowa Western with four field goals over the next five minutes, and put her team ahead 31-22 on a quick transition layup.
Fisher provided valuable minutes off the Lady Cardinals’ bench prior to the break. After making a putback, the freshman forward zipped an entry pass to Tayla Corrigan for a tying turn-around finish at 34-34.
Beckwith sparked an 8-0 Iowa Western spurt to close the half with another 3-pointer, and the Reivers maintained their lead until the final seconds.
“For them to make that run, it brought us down a bit,” Roberts said. “But we were only down eight points. We just had to stick to our game plan and get more rebounds. Just to come back and redeem ourselves after getting those early fouls was great.”
The outcome not only bolstered an imminent rise in the national polls, but could ultimately factor into postseason aspirations for Mineral Area.
“That was game 14 in our season, the halfway point. We have 28 on the schedule before the playoffs,” Koch said. “This year the national tournament is adding 8 at-large teams, and this win really helps if we happen to come up short in the region.”
MAC will host Madison (Wis.) College on Wednesday before resuming Region XVI action against Three Rivers on Saturday.
Iowa Western 42 38 - 80
Mineral Area 34 48 - 82
Iowa Western - Bobbi Beckwith 20, Alise Karlsone 17, Leah Scott 17, Tyisha Smith 10, Lakota Goe 5, Amber McCann 4, Shaw-nee Winningham 4, Blair Harding 3. 3-point FG - Beckwith 6, Karlsone, Harding, Scott, Smith, Goe. (FT: 13-19)
Mineral Area - Chelsea Roberts 25, Janelle Travis 18, Courtney Knuckles 11, Courtney Fisher 11, Ashleigh Bow 6, Katelyn Sager 6, Tayla Corrigan 3, Brittany Lawson 2. 3-point FG - Travis 3, Bow, Knuckles. (FT: 26-32)