PARK HILLS — Mineral Area fearlessly attacked the taller post players of Three Rivers to erase a 10-point deficit in the second half Saturday night.
But the Lady Raiders stood their ground defensively down the stretch, led by 6-foot sophomore Anna Vogt, and emerged with a physical 81-76 win in Region XVI women’s basketball.
Vogt compiled 21 points plus 15 rebounds and put Three Rivers (18-7, 4-4) ahead to stay at 75-74 after catching a high lob near the basket. A key rejection helped the visitors protect their lead moments later.
Mineral Area (15-9, 4-4) suffered four straight empty possessions after grabbing a 74-73 lead when freshman M.J. Buschmann completed back-to-back perfect trips to the line with 2:57 to play.
Lady Raiders point guard Aaryana Cook made a steal in the frontcourt and split two free throws. Vogt then stuffed a tying layup attempt by Robneisha Lee, and Macy Wright’s 3-point play at the opposite end made it 79-74.
Cook scored a game-high 22 points and Wright totaled 20 along with four steals in a dominant showing by the Three Rivers guard tandem.
Sophomore forward U’Knique Gaines was a tenacious standout with 18 points and 11 rebounds as four Lady Cardinals reached double figures.
Buschmann ended with 15 points while Lee scored 14 and Ashley Ward chipped in 11. Darrieon Clark equaled Cook with five assists off the bench.
The teams shared the MCCAC title based on a split in the regular season series. Three Rivers initially won the previous matchup in Poplar Bluff, but forfeited the game after using an ineligible player.
Vogt scored seven consecutive points after Lee put Mineral Area in front 43-41 with a 3-pointer. The Lady Raiders then built their largest advantage when a corner triple by Danielle Farmer made it 53-43.
Clark answered with a conventional 3-point play, and her assist to Lee in transition kept the Lady Cardinals within close striking distance.
Gaines drained a baseline jumper and earned two free throws on the next possession with 5:51 remaining to level the score at 66-66.
Ward answered a Wright 3-pointer with a difficult runner through the lane, and MAC made a key stop after Wright ripped two offensive rebounds away to eventually go ahead.
In a battle that featured 19 turnovers from each squad, the Lady Cardinals jumped to an early 15-8 lead as Ward connected from long range and Gaines finished a subsequent passing play inside.
But a combination of superior speed from Cook and strong shooting from her teammates ignited a Three Rivers response.
Cook scored easily on three separate drives against single defenders, and other penetration enabled the Lady Raiders to get open from the perimeter.
Whitney Welker splashed a 19-footer for a 37-29 margin, but Buschmann answered with a fast-break layup and deep jumper of her own. Mineral Area only trailed 39-37 at the intermission.
MAC faces two lengthy road trips this week, meeting Arkansas Baptist on Tuesday before colliding with region foe Crowder on Saturday.
Three Rivers 39 42 - 81
Mineral Area 37 39 - 76
Three Rivers - Aaryana Cook 22, Anna Vogt 21, Macy Wright 20, Danielle Farmer 8, Marissa Webb 3, Whitney Welker 3, Tori Cole 2, Cierra Cawvey 2. 3-point FG - Wright 3, Farmer 2, Cook. (FT: 25-36)
Mineral Area - U’Knique Gaines 18, M.J. Buschmann 15, Robneisha Lee 14, Ashley Ward 11, Darrieon Clark 9, Alayah Cooper-Johnson 4, Lacey Murray 3, Riley Reddin 2. 3-point FG - Ward 2, Lee 2, Buschmann, Murray. (FT: 18-25)