PARK HILLS – The season opener for the Mineral Area women’s basketball team on Wednesday evening was littered with glaring mistakes – many of them.
But an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter offered an early opportunity for the Lady Cardinals to test their resolve in the face of adversity.
Allie Golden, who admittedly needed a few games to find her confidence at the collegiate level last year, emerged as a leader when the Lady Cardinals desperately needed one.
Holly Forbes established herself as a versatile force inside, and Mineral Area overcame a frigid shooting performance in the first half to defeat SE Illinois 69-63 in overtime.
The Lady Cardinals (1-0) forced 24 turnovers while committing 19, and generated a pivotal steal out of a timeout when down by two points in the final minute of regulation.
Golden intercepted an inbounds pass in the midcourt circle, and raced in transition for a tying layup at 59-59 with 37 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Solid perimeter defense by freshman guard Madison Reynolds coaxed an ensuing air ball, and the Lady Cardinals nearly celebrated the most exciting possible finish.
Forbes rebounded a missed shot and sank an 8-footer as the home crowd momentarily erupted, but it was ruled to have been released after the buzzer and waved off.
Mineral Area never trailed during the extra session. Golden put her squad ahead 64-61 on a three-point play with 2:33 remaining, and Forbes powered her way to the basket to extend the lead.
The Lady Falcons (0-1) closed the game with four consecutive empty possessions, and watched MAC seal the outcome by splitting three final trips to the line.
Forbes compiled a team-high 22 points – despite misfiring on a few shots from close range – along with six rebounds, six assists and five steals in her debut.
Golden was held scoreless in the first half, but helped to keep Mineral Area afloat in the third quarter before ending with a career-high 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Jada Harrell was a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point range, and tallied a game-high 24 for SE Illinois, which buried nine triples overall and led 48-37 with 8:36 to play in the fourth.
The Lady Cardinals responded with an energetic surge and 17-5 run over the next five minutes that included three crucial second-chance baskets.
Lainey Bell provided a putback and 3-pointer within the spurt, and Ella Gobald took a kickout pass from Forbes to bring MAC within 53-50 from long range.
Gobald grabbed a missed shot and found Tyeshia Mitchell for a subsequent baseline jumper, and Reynolds dished to Forbes for a go-ahead layup at 54-53 with 3:23 on the clock.
Three more lead changes occurred in short order, and Raven Brown put SE Illinois ahead 59-57 on her lone field goal with 1:23 left.
Demitria Heard finished with 14 points, and Lawrencia Simon added 10 for the Lady Falcons, who made just 2-of-11 shots in overtime.
Mineral Area started the game 0-of-12 from the perimeter until Golden connected from the right side in the third quarter. Forbes followed with a steal and layup for a 31-27 lead.
SE Illinois countered with a 15-4 spree after beating the Lady Cardinals down the court in transition five times in six possessions and cashing in four uncontested layups.
Both teams shot below 30 percent from the field over the first 20 minutes. Solid interior passing created two made layups, however, as the Lady Cardinals enjoyed a 10-3 start.
SE Illinois capped the first quarter with seven straight points, and jumped in front 16-12 when Keaubree Edwards converted an offensive rebound into a 3-point play.
Reynolds appeared to have beaten the halftime buzzer by pushing a left-handed midcourt shot through the hoop as time expired. But following a discussion among officials, the play was negated by a foul call with 0.3 seconds left, and SE Illinois maintained a 21-20 edge at the break.
Gobald totaled 10 points,and Mitchell added 11 rebounds with three steals off the bench for Mineral Area, which will face Olney Central and SE Illinois this weekend at the Three Rivers Classic.
The Lady Cardinals were without returning center Olivia White, who could miss up to three weeks with a sprained ankle.