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Lady Cardinals protect ball, pull away in fourth quarter

PARK HILLS – The Mineral Area women’s basketball team overcame a shaky effort on the defensive glass by committing just one second-half turnover during its home opener on Saturday.

All-American forward Holly Forbes powered her way to a third straight double-double with 20 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and three steals as the Lady Cardinals topped Neosho County 83-65.

Natalia Lalic banked in a 14-foot runner at the first quarter horn, and recorded 16 points as five Mineral Area players finished in double figures.

Neosho County shot only 33 percent from the field, but collected 18 offensive rebounds and brought its deficit on the scoreboard to single digits with seven minutes to play.

Alexis Casher finished a turnaround inside, and Erica Birch drained a long jumper to make it 65-57 after the Lady Cardinals had established a 14-point lead earlier in the fourth quarter.

Mineral Area (3-0) seized control from there with an 8-1 run. Caitlyn Holmes ignited the pull-away with a rare 3-pointer from the left wing as the shot clock expired.

Forbes followed with a driving layup, and Masyn McWilliams finished another while dribbling straight down the lane to restore a 73-58 spread.

Georgia Sideri knocked down her second basket from the baseline for an 18-point lead late. Both teams were an identical 16-of-28 from the line.

Keanna Williams ended with 13 points and five rebounds for the Lady Cardinals, who totaled just eight turnovers for the game. McWilliams notched 12 points while Holmes added 10.

Birch netted 12 points to pace Neosho County, which sent 15 different players in the action, but only sank 5-of-24 attempts from beyond the arc.

Kelcey Hinz grabbed 13 rebounds while matching Calea Augustin with nine points apiece. Casher picked up 11 rebounds in defeat.

Lalic swished a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, and Williams took a steal the other way for a fast-break layup an early 16-8 Mineral Area lead.

The Lady Panthers countered with consecutive jumpers, but Lalic answered in a hurry with time winding down. She then opened the second quarter by draining a 17-footer.

Connor Watkins contributed strong minutes after Holmes picked up her second foul, and picked up five of her eight points off the bench as MAC closed the half with a 7-0 run.

Forbes followed a Watkins 3-pointer with a jumper from just above the foul line, and Watkins attacked for a layup with 2 seconds left to create a 41-27 lead.

Neosho County missed numerous second and third chances after crashing the boards on missed shots, but drew within 45-38 early in the third quarter.

Lalic nailed a crucial out of a timeout, however, and Forbes added three baskets with strong work from the post. Williams hit a transition layup, and Mineral Area was ahead 56-43.

The Lady Cardinals shot 46 percent overall, including a superb 23-of-42 from 2-point range.

Mineral Area freshman guard Natalia Lalic (12) shoots during the second quarter of a home game against John A. Logan on Sunday. She posted 16 points and three assists in a victory over Neosho County on Saturday.

Mineral Area freshman guard Natalia Lalic (12) shoots during the second quarter of a home game against John A. Logan on Sunday. She posted 16 points and three assists in a victory over Neosho County on Saturday.

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