HILLSBORO — The Mineral Area Cardinals basketball season came to an end Saturday night in the Region 16 championship game, but not before they had made a statement that they could play with the No. 1 seed Three Rivers Raiders, falling only by nine, 84-75.
The game was tied three times in the second half with the lead changing hands four times. The Cardinals tied the game for the last time with 5:30 left, and at the 3:34 mark they pulled to within one. A couple of driving baskets by Josh Terry and some clutch free throw shooting by the Raiders helped them build their final cushion.
The Raiders did everything they could, short of building a cage around him, to stop Mineral Area’s Gerald Fulton from getting his hands on the ball in the second half. Chasing him, holding him and pushing him, the Raiders could still not contain the sophomore shooter. Fulton scored 19 of his game’s 24 points in the quarter wth six coming from the free-throw line and nine from the 3-point circle.
Byron Pickens also contributed mightily to help the Cardinals make a game of it in the second half. Pickens scored half of his 10 points in the second half off of three offensive rebounds to finish with 12 points altogether.
The Cardinals took charge at the onset of the game, and when Carlton Guyton made a behind the back shovel pass under the basket to Jeremy Felton for the jam, making it 11-5, it brought the Raiders’ long-heralded head coach Gene Bess to his feet to call time.
The Raiders responded to their coach by scoring 10 out of the next 13 points to take the lead at 15-14. Eric McCrary with his first of three three-pointers tied the game at 21-21, and Sean Scott capitalized on a triple trip to the line to tie the score again at 24-24 with five minutes left in the half.
A pair of three-pointers from Allan Spencer were crucial in helping the Raiders establish their lead of nine at the half, 40-31.
Three clutch three-pointers were huge for Mineral Area during their catching up and trading leads with the Raiders in the early going of the second half. Eric McCrary, Tonye Smith and Sean Scott all connected from the perimeter.
The Cardinals outrebounded the Raiders 33-30, but gave up the most turnovers with 11 to Three Rivers’ 8. Three Rivers gained eight points on Mineral Area at the free throw line. Attempting 34 free shots, the Raiders connected on 25. The Cardinals made only 17 of their 36 attempts.
The Cardinals also received some special honors with Gerald Fulton, Jeremy Felton and Mike Stovall being selected to the prestigous 10-man All-Region team.
Mineral Area finishes their season at 19-12.
Mineral Area 31 44 – 75
Three Rivers 40 44 – 84
Mineral Area – Fulton 24, Pickens 12, McCrary 11, Scott 11, Felton 9, Tonye Smith 7. 3-pt. FG- McCrary 3, Fulton 3, Smith 2, Scott 2.
Three Rivers – Terry 22, Carter 18, Bingham 14, Henry 12, Marrs 7, Spencer 6, Walker 3, Shelton 2. 3-pt FG. – Spencer 2, Bingham.