PARK HILLS – Sophomore transfer guard David Kachelries highlighted a stellar defensive first half by the Mineral Area men’s basketball team with two soaring chase blocks on Wednesday night.
Despite carrying a significant size advantage inside against visiting St. Louis, the Cardinals were instead propelled by their backcourt standouts in a 78-64 triumph over St. Louis.
Mineral Area (17-5) forced 12 turnovers prior to intermission, including three 10-second violations off effective pressure and three steals during a short stint from reserve Tarek Raafat.
Kachelries finished a difficult reserve layup with a long final step across the lane, and shared team-high honors with 14 points alongside Jared Grubb.
The Cardinals dominated the opening stanza once recovering from an initial field-goal drought where they missed nine consecutive shots through five minutes.
St. Louis (7-9) jumped ahead 9-3 on a leaner in the lane from Dominique Loyd, but soon surrendered the lead for good as Mineral Area produced a 12-0 run.
Yahuza Rasas collected a blocked shot at the rim for an easy, go-ahead follow, and Kachelries pushed the Cardinals’ advantage to 18-11 with a 3-pointer along the right side.
Darreus Brown added a fading triple from the corner, and Rases flipped in another high-percentage shot on a pinpoint entry pass from Patrick Strzala at 31-16.
Strzala answered a 3-pointer by Trequon Patterson with one of his own just before the buzzer sounded, and Mineral Area enjoyed a comfortable 40-23 advantage.
Sterling Wooten shined in the second half for the Archers to finish with 23 points and 11 rebounds. He scored three separate times after offensive rebounds were kept alive.
Brown extended the difference to 47-27 with a steal and layup, but Loyd countered with five straight points on two possessions while netting 15 overall.
MAC center Gabe O’Neal pitched in 11 of his 12 points after the break, and finished a strong move with the left hand through contact before converting from the line.
Grubb entered the scoring column with an impressive double-clutch layup while falling backward, then heated up from long range with four subsequent 3-pointers.
The Cardinals built their largest lead of the contest at 67-42 with about nine minutes to play. Strzala had 11 points and Rasas tallied 10, giving the team five men in double figures.
Wooten pumped in his final putback with 44 seconds left, and Robyion Hughes sank a previous 3-pointer as St. Louis generated a cosmetic 9-0 run late.
DaMani Jarrett equaled Hughes with eight points each, and Darius Riley grabbed 10 rebounds for the Archers.
Mineral Area will seek its first Region 16 victory at State Fair on Saturday.