PARK HILLS – Pat Smith was selected to the NJCAA Men’s Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame earlier this week. On Saturday, his team nabbed a crucial Region 16 road victory.
Paced by 28 points from all-American guard Alonzo Verge, Jr., Moberly countered a rousing comeback from Mineral Area and prevailed 86-76 for its 10th consecutive win.
Five players from each team cracked double figures during an up-tempo contest marked by an exchange of several prolonged scoring runs.
The last one belonged to the Greyhounds. Mike Hood drained a tiebreaking 3-pointer midway through the second half, and later finished a drive through contact during a key 10-0 surge.
An emphatic block by Raekwon Drake sparked a transition slam from Markelo Sullivan, and Moberly (17-5, 3-0) restored a 68-58 advantage.
Mineral Area (15-5, 0-2) made its closest approach from there at 73-69 after Patrick Strzala buried his fourth 3-pointer and David Kachelries made a reverse layup off a Darreus Brown steal.
Verge converted at the line after drawing a foul, then collected the loose ball as Kachelries slipped down and finished a layup while being fouled again for an 80-71 margin with 1:39 to play.
A smooth backdoor feed from Tahj Small to Hood shut the door in the final minute. Small tallied 15 points, and Sullivan added 13 for Moberly.
Kachelries scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half for Mineral Area, but was also plagued by some costly turnovers when the Greyhounds effectively trapped along the sidelines.
The Cardinals erased an original 18-point deficit, and moved ahead 54-50 after Strzala sank a short turn-around left of the lane, and Anthony Wales followed with two free throws.
Sullivan answered with two key 3-pointers around a slashing layup by Verge, and Moberly regained a 58-56 edge within a quick series of lead changes.
The start time was moved up five hours due to weather, and heavy, blowing snow drove attendance numbers down for a rivalry matchup that packed the Sechrest Fieldhouse two years ago.
Mineral Area saw its first game competition in 10 days, and rust was immediately evident. The Cardinals missed their first 10 shots with three turnovers mixed into that sequence.
Small connected twice from long range during an opening 10-0 run, and fast-break baskets from Sullivan and Sean Miller-Moore helped the difference reach 23-5.
The momentum of the visitors was suddenly interrupted by two separate delays to correct a shot clock malfunction. But unlike a similar controversial situation in 2017, the issue was soon resolved.
Two scores by center Gabe O’Neal and a transition layup by Jared Grubb over three straight possessions enabled the Cardinals to finally settle in. Moberly still maintained distance with a 32-15 lead.
MAC rallied behind a perimeter spark prior to halftime. After Strzala struck twice for three, Yahuza Rasas and Brown also knocked down 22-footers to draw within 39-33.
Verge zipped a half-court lob on target to Miller-Moore for a massive dunk, however, then attacked the lane for a layup as Moberly entered halftime leading 43-35.
Strzala opened the second half with a resounding four-point play following a collision on his made three from the right corner. That effort began a 10-0 MAC run.
Kachelries tied it with a steal and layup, and promptly added another one as Strzala created a takeaway to give the Cardinals their first lead at 45-43.
Strzala finished with 15 points, while Brown compiled eight assists plus 10 points for Mineral Area, which returns to action at Lincoln Land on Monday.
Yahuza Rasas scored 12 and Steve Wooten provided 11 points with eight rebounds. Their production inside was most prominent in the first half.
Hood totaled 11 points and Miller-Moore had 10 to bolster Moberly. Sullivan left the action following a violent midair meeting with O’Neal as continuation of a layup after the whistle was challenged.