PARK HILLS – Holly Forbes opted to stay close to home as a coveted recruit and anchor a promising nucleus of local talent when joining the Mineral Area women’s basketball scene two years ago.
The career scoring leader for the North County High School girls program instantly became a reliable source of production for a MAC squad seeking a dominant post presence.
Her value was further magnified by an increased leadership role when the Lady Cardinals faced a roster overhaul last summer.
Longtime friends and club season teammates Madison Reynolds and Briar Johnson were among those who sought new endeavors, while Allie Golden joined the MAC coaching staff upon graduation.
Forbes adapted seamlessly as the lone sophomore among the starting five, and achieved new statistical heights to leave Mineral Area as arguably its most decorated individual player.
The NJCAA officially awarded Forbes with First Team All-America status on Monday, making her the first two-time recipient for the MAC women after she previously gained Honorable Mention.
She is only the second member of the Lady Cardinals to grace the First Team, joining 2015 recipient and fellow forward Janekia Mason, who later transferred to Tennessee-Martin.
“I’m happy that I made it, mainly to prove to myself that I could do it after not getting all-state in high school.” Forbes said. “I always feel pressure to perform, and that’s a part of what drives me to work hard.
“The younger girls deserve a lot of credit as well. They stepped up into their roles and did a fantastic job, making my job as a leader very easy. I was surrounded by hard-working individuals that pushed me to do better.”
Forbes has enjoyed a similar two-year trajectory in Park Hills to Mason. She managed to earn Region 16 Player of the Year designation even though the team title eluded her grasp.
The latest individual accolade was announced hours after Forbes settled her future playing destination, a decision she shared publicly Monday afternoon.
Forbes verbally committed to Robert Morris University, a Division I institution and Northeast Conference member located in suburban Pittsburgh.
The Colonials recently finished 22-11 overall, and secured the NEC tournament crown for an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. They were defeated by No. 1 seed Louisville 69-34 in the first round.
“There are many things about Robert Morris that I enjoyed,” Forbes said. “One main thing would have to be their culture. Their values really aligned with mine, and they hold their players to a high standard on and off the court.”
“I had been in contact with four other D-1 programs before committing to Robert Morris,” she added. “I expect my biggest challenge to be transitioning from the 5 to the 4. But I’m up for the challenge.”
Forbes will be the second North County graduate in four years to compete at the NCAA Division I level. Kourtney Kekec wrapped up her senior season last month at UT-San Antonio.
Mineral Area ended its most recent campaign with a 21-8 record. Forbes recorded 18 double-doubles along the way as the pillar of a team that endured numerous key injuries.
“It turned out that if we didn’t have her, we probably wouldn’t have won half the games we did,” Mineral Area head coach Gary Koch said. “It seems like every time we needed a rebound, bucket, stop, etc. – she was there.
“She was such a clutch performer and always in the mix of this team’s chemistry. Her presence had to be here this year or we were not the team we were with this young group.”
Forbes averaged 16.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, and landed within the top 20 nationally by shooting an efficient 58 percent from the field.
She netted a game-high 32 points along with four steals on a neutral court against NE Mississippi, and also posted 27 points and 16 rebounds in a tough home loss to region champion Three Rivers.
While overwhelming many interior defenders one-on-one, Forbes has spent time developing her range. Her free-throw percentage also jumped from 47 as a freshman to 65.
“I think her greatest improvement has been the mid-range shot. She worked really hard on that this past year,” Koch said. “I would say her challenge at the next level will be to expand her game and add the 3-pointer.
“She is working out with our guards right now to try and improve her ball handling as well. She won’t have any problem defending bigger or working at that level, just has to shore up her offensive tools. She will be a great player for Robert Morris.”
The month of April could bring more happy news to Forbes’ family. Older brother Drew, an All-American tackle at Southeast Missouri State, is a projected mid- to late-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.