PARK HILLS — A meager overall record was nowhere near indicative of the quality opponent that ultimately faced the Mineral Area women’s basketball team on Tuesday evening.
The Lady Cardinals were taken to the wire by visiting Arkansas Baptist until 3-pointers by Robneisha Lee and Kasia Kiejdrowska created enough distance down the stretch for a 74-62 victory.
Lee continued her recent scoring surge with a game-high 22 points, making 7-of-8 free throws. Darrieon Clark generated 13 points plus three steals while Kiejdrowska netted 12 off the MAC bench.
The Lady Cardinals (11-6) followed their usual trend of strong defense in the first half, allowing just four points during a 7-minute stretch as Arkansas Baptist committed 15 turnovers before the break.
But Mineral Area had to overcome its own erratic start after waiting more than four minutes without a made field goal.
Clark provided a defensive spark with a steal and layup before draining a 3-pointer. Mineral Area induced an ensuing 5-second call and surged ahead 23-11 after Kiejdrowska made a pair of transition layups.
Kiejdrowska sank an open triple after teammate U’Knique Gaines fought through a double team, and MAC enjoyed a sizable 48-31 advantage when Tayla Corrigan banked a leaner early in the second half.
The Lady Buffaloes (3-14) suffered their sixth straight loss, but not without making a late run. They consistently created second chances on the offensive glass where Mineral Area has dominated its previous two outings.
Meyonsha Riddles compiled 15 points and nine rebounds as four visiting players reached double figures. Christina Devers and Makaila Jordan each added 12 points and Tatiyana Smith chipped in 11.
Jordan and Ebonee Tate began the comeback with consecutive 3-pointers, and a jump hook by Smith reduced the margin to 49-41 with 10:43 to play.
Clark countered with a 3-point play after making a steal, but Riddles scored with a powerful finish while being fouled for the Lady Buffaloes.
Despite missing several shots from close range, Arkansas Baptist improved its ball handling to keep chipping away.
Smith grabbed a high rebound over two Lady Cardinals for a putback, and a subsequent MAC turnovers proved costly when a Riddles basket trimmed the deficit all the way to 60-55 with 4:51 remaining.
Mineral Area broke pressure for an uncontested layup out of a timeout, and would take care of the basketball to restore a 69-58 lead after Lee buried her third 3-pointer of the night.
The teams are scheduled for a rematch in Little Rock, Ark. on February 12. Mineral Area returns to Region 16 action Saturday at Moberly.
Arkansas Baptist 23 39 - 62
Mineral Area 36 38 - 74
Arkansas Baptist - Meyonsha Riddles 15, Makaila Jordan 12, Christina Devers 12, Tatiyana Smith 11, Ebonee Tate 6, Chelsea Payne 5, Jasmine Bell 1. 3-point FG - Jackson 2, Jordan, Tate. (FT: 14-21)
Mineral Area - Robneisha Lee 22, Darrieon Clark 13, Kasia Kiejdrowska 12, Tayla Corrigan 8, Larra Kubinski 6, M.J. Buschmann 6, U’Knique Gaines 4, Riley Reddin 2, Alayah Cooper-Johnson 1. 3-point FG - Lee 3, Kiejdrowska 2, Clark. (FT: 16-23)