MOBERLY, Mo. – The longest winning streak in Mineral Area men’s basketball history and pursuit of a perfect regular season could not survive the formidable Region 16 gauntlet.
The second marquee tussle between the fourth-ranked Cardinals and No. 11 Moberly was plagued by malfunctioning shot clocks and a high volume of whistles, much like the first.
And once again, the home team capitalized on its chance to maintain a late lead.
Moberly overcame an atrocious shooting stretch from the perimeter by wearing a path to the charity stripe, and emerged with a 63-58 victory at Fitzsimmons-John Arena.
Brandon Better scored 17 of his game-high 18 points during the second half, and the Greyhounds (21-2, 4-1) converted 33-of-40 free throws while forcing 18 turnovers.
His 3-pointer with 5:40 remaining put Moberly ahead to stay at 46-45, but three shots that did not fall through from beyond the arc also left an imprint on the game.
Better coaxed three separate foul calls from officials when crashing to the floor, including two straight that left MAC defender Lamar Morgan with a bewildered look on his face.
Five of the resulting six free throws were made to establish a 51-45 advantage and complete a personal 8-0 scoring run by the Greyhounds’ top scorer.
Amar Miller made an acrobatic layup amid contact in response for the Cardinals, but Moberly got a huge 3-pointer from Jabari Antwine after Leonard Harper-Baker grabbed an offensive rebound.
“There are no excuses,” Mineral Area coach Luke Strege said. “We just didn’t make plays with five or six minutes left to go, and they did.”
Zac Cuthbertson netted 11 of his 15 points before intermission, and brought in eight rebounds to pace Mineral Area (24-1, 5-1), which could not protect its maximum 12-point lead.
Three starters were held well below their double-digit season averages. Devin Thomas and Morgan each had seven points, and Shawn Roundtree totaled just two on 0-of-6 from the field.
Mineral Area entered the evening with a chance to secure the top seed in the Region 16 tournament. That goal can still be attainable with home victories over Three Rivers and State Fair.
“We’re still a work in progress. We still have a month left to play our best basketball,” Strege said. “This loss will refocus this team. We’re going to take this feeling and digest it for about five hours, and on Monday, we’ll have the best practice that we’ll probably have all year.”
The Cardinals seized early momentum with their five reserves on the floor. Djibril Diallo put the visitors ahead 14-12 with a triple from the right wing.
Cuthbertson returned to sink a pair of threes following a Thomas block, and Darius Thompson splashed two more from long range to help the spread reach 28-16.
Moberly unofficially missed 14 consecutive 3-point attempts after making its first, but mounted a pivotal 10-0 run to close the half.
Austin Trice provided six points off the bench, and Delfincko Bogan buried a baseline pull-up jumper that brought the Greyhounds within 28-26.
Moberly placed three players in double figures as Antwine scored 11 points and Bogan added 10.
“They’re a good team and well coached,” Strege said. “You have to put a team like that away on the road in this region, or you’re in trouble.
“We’ve been in those close games so much, and found a way to win. Eventually, one will come back and get you. We didn’t stretch that lead at the end of the first half. We had opportunities to make shots, and didn’t. We didn’t handle the zone very well, and that was absolutely my fault.”
MAC, which has prevailed in three overtime road games this season, restored a 38-31 lead following a slashing layup by Cuthbertson and high putback from Mark Laros.
Thompson tallied nine points with four assists, and Miller chipped in eight points for the Cardinals, who were 14-of-22 from the line.
The Cardinals won the previous meeting in Park Hills, 66-58, on a night when the impromptu decision was made to continue playing with unlimited time to shoot.
Moberly encountered a similar technical issue with its shot clocks a few days later, but used the public address announcer to count down the allotted seconds on Saturday.