JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Jamir Price missed two relatively easy chances to put the Mineral Area men’s basketball team ahead down the stretch of regulation.
But when the Cardinals were in dire need of points to save their season on Friday, the sophomore guard somehow finished his most difficult shot of the afternoon.
Price banked a running scoop while drawing a blocking foul on a judgment call with 5.4 seconds left in overtime, and Mineral Area edged State Fair 72-70 in the Region 16 semifinal round at Lincoln University.
The defending champion Cardinals overcame a five-point deficit and shortened rotation in the extra session, and will play for the title Saturday at 7 p.m. against Moberly, which defeated Three Rivers 77-76.
Keonte Jones scored a game-high 20 points, including six straight in overtime, and regained the lead for MAC at 69-68 on an uncontested putback with 33 seconds to play.
The Roadrunners answered with an excellent interior pass from Will Wilson to Cam Tweedy for a go-ahead dunk with 11.6 showing on the clock.
Price wasted no time attacking off the dribble from the top of the key, and watched his wild shot find the mark from the floor after crashing hard into defender Clance Crosby.
His ensuing free throw was also good, and Mineral Area (24-6) survived when a desperation 3-pointer from the left corner caught the side of the backboard.
The Cardinals committed only seven turnovers in a 45-minute contest that featured a remarkable 20 lead changes, and defeated State Fair (15-15) for the fourth time this season.
Brett Thompson finished with 19 points, but missed a potential tiebreaking 3-pointer and 17-footer after Jones drew a charging foul at the opposite end to set up the final possession of the second half.
Price provided 11 points overall to equal center Kenan Sarvan, who started a dismal 0-of-7 from 3-point range before sinking his eighth and final attempt.
State Fair also had four players in double figures as Yame Butler and Wilson each netted 17 points, and Jamar Madge, Jr. matched Tweedy with 11 apiece before fouling out.
Mineral Area won the three regular season contests by an average of 22 points, but often looked sluggish when shooting, whether from the perimeter or near the rim.
Caleb Mims traded 3-pointers with Thompson late in the second half, and Chad Kratzer connected to offset a driving 3-point play by Jones as State Fair lead 63-61 with 2:42 remaining.
The Cardinals followed with five crucial defensive stops in a row, but could only draw even when Jones turned to score from the low post with 1:32 left.
Price suffered an empty trip to the line moments later, and could not finish a contested layup attempt after cleanly stripping the ball from Kratzer inside the final minute.
State Fair was in prime position to secure the upset after Butler sank a tough runner and Tweedy dished to Wilson for a 68-63 advantage in overtime.
But the No. 5 seed botched an inbounds pass under tight pressure from the Cardinals, and committed three OT turnovers among 20 for the game.
Jones made four steals and Sarvan grabbed seven rebounds for the 18th-ranked Cardinals, who stand two victories away from a return to the NJCAA Tournament.
Mineral Area claimed its largest lead at 19-11 as Gavin Harris hit a 3-pointer, capping an 8-0 run after Jones hit a driving layup and found Lamontay Daughtery for a subsequent 3-point play.
The Roadrunners never panicked, and limited the transition opportunities for the opposition while calmly operating some effective half-court sets.
Wilson drained three triples prior to intermission, and Madge gave State Fair a 28-26 edge on another deep jumper. Neither squad held a lead larger than five the remainder of the way.
Terry Ford beat the shot clock with a 3-pointer, and slashed for a tiebreaking layup that sent Mineral Area into halftime up 33-31.
Thompson tallied 13 points during the second half, and sparked a series of five alternating baskets. Price capped it with a streaking layup at 45-44.
Wilson knocked down two free throws, and finished a quick pass from Butler to give the Roadrunners a short-lived 53-49 cushion with seven minutes left.
Mineral Area made 12-of-15 free throws compared to 4-of-6 by State Fair.