PARK HILLS – Keanna Williams used her speed and creativity when an initial screen failed to fully materialize, and rescued the Mineral Area women from a potential collapse on Saturday.
The freshman point guard squeezed a tiebreaking layup over two challenging defenders with only 2.7 seconds to play, and the Lady Cardinals edged State Fair 62-60 in the regular-season finale.
Georgia Sideri and Caitlyn Holmes achieved career bests in scoring, and Holly Forbes notched her 17th double-double of the season in the victory.
Holmes threw an inbounds pass from midcourt directly to Rionne Papa for a layup and 60-51 advantage, but the Mineral Area offense turned stagnant over the next 5 ½ minutes.
Nokoia White muscled in a putback and buried a contested 18-footer during a 9-0 State Fair response. Monique Esbrand converted two free throws off a steal with 24 seconds left to draw even.
Williams attacked along the edge of the lane for the winning left-handed finish, and the Lady Cards escaped when a dangerous inbounds pass was fumbled away by Jasmine Williams inside the restricted area.
Forbes powered her squad once again with game highs of 20 points and 13 rebounds despite missing a couple of quality looks down the stretch. She also dished out four assists.
Sideri shined with 16 points, and Holmes tallied her 13 during a superb first half while distributing five assists. Keanna Williams finished with six points as MAC shot 51 percent from field.
Playing their third game of the week with a reduced roster of eight, the Lady Cardinals perhaps began to exhibit some fatigue down the stretch.
But a first-round bye in the upcoming Region 16 tournament offers a helpful rest period as they hope to welcome injured starters Natalia Lalic and Masyn McWilliams back to the lineup.
Mineral Area (21-7, 8-2) will carry the No. 2 region seed and face either Moberly or Jefferson in the semifinal round on Friday night at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
The narrow loss added another layer of frustration to a rough season for State Fair (7-16, 3-7), which has been ravaged by injuries from the beginning.
The Roadrunners managed to hang around until the conclusion, however, behind 18 points from White and 14 more from both Sahara Bamba and Esbrand.
Williams began the fourth quarter like she concluded it with a layup, giving Mineral Area its largest lead of the game at 54-42. That field goal capped a much larger 14-5 run.
Esband cashed in a 2-on-1 fast break at 40-37, but Forbes powered to the basket on an entry feed from Sideri before grabbing her own rebound and swishing two free throws.
Forbes and Sideri combined for 18 points during the third quarter, and the Lady Cardinals extended their 32-26 halftime advantage while committing just one foul in the stanza.
Holmes ignited Mineral Area in the first quarter after White had given the visitors their final lead at 12-11 with a clean steal and transition layup.
The Central High School graduate caught an entry pass from Forbes at a favorable scoring angle, and showed quick hands on a midcourt steal that became a converted 3-point play seconds later.
Holmes provided a putback and baseline jumper among three second-quarter field goals, and Sideri slashed across the lane for her second layup prior to intermission.
Bamba waged several physical battles with Forbes inside, and picked up seven points in the first five minutes for State Fair, which will face Crowder in the 4-5 region pairing on Tuesday.
Saturday marked the last scheduled home contest for sophomores Lainey Bell and Forbes along with longtime MAC assistant coach Randy Skaggs, who was honored before lineup introductions.