CARTERVILLE, Ill. – Amarion Dickerson instantly acknowledged his mistake, and saved Mineral Area head coach Greg Heiar the trouble of pulling him by walking directly to the bench.
Shortly after committing a cheap fourth foul in the frontcourt on Thursday night, the hustling lone returning player for the Cardinals returned to the floor with a mighty flourish.
Dickerson powered his way inside for a tiebreaking basket with 2:28 remaining, and rejoined a superb collective effort on defense that spurred a larger 10-0 run.
Mineral Area found John A. Logan far more resilient in a rematch of the lopsided season opener, and overcame several frustrating moments to stay unbeaten with a 67-63 win.
Dickerson finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds and six steals, and the Cardinals erased a nine-point deficit by committing just four turnovers in the second half.
Marcus Watson Jr. also netted 12 points with four assists, and Doreante Tucker added 10 points after Mineral Area (6-0) defeated the Volunteers 89-60 two weeks earlier on a neutral court.
John A. Logan (1-4), with two players back from its NJCAA championship squad, buckled late against pressure from the fresher and deeper Cardinals, who routinely substituted five players at once.
The Volunteers shot a miserable 1-of-15 from 3-point range before halftime, yet still boasted a 45-36 advantage after Jaylen Fairman hit a slashing layup with 12:38 to play.
Hampered at times by physical post defense and ragged free-throw shooting, the Cardinals received a key 3-pointer from Tucker after Richmond Mawutor skied for an offensive rebound.
Tyler Smith scored in transition off an outlet pass, then buried a tying 3-pointer at 49-49. Logan would return the favor following a timeout.
Julian Norris regained the lead from long range when a second straight miss at the line was rebounded by 7-footer Elliot Lowndes to rescue the possession.
Alfred Worrell nailed all three free throws after being fouled by Josh Meo beyond the arc to restore a 59-54 cushion for the Volunteers.
The next five minutes were owned by MAC. DIckerson splashed an open 3-pointer, then drew the fifth foul against opposing forward Isaac James on a charging call.
Lowndes registered five blocks in the game, but Dickerson attacked from the perimeter and utilized a subtle fake to beat the center for a 61-59 edge.
Watson streaked down the lane for the previous layup, and sank a clutch pair of free throws for a two-possession lead. The Cardinals survived going 16-of-33 from the stripe.
Mineral Area intensified its perimeter defense to force an ensuing shot clock violation, then coaxed a soft entry pass from the corner to emerge with a steal.
Charles Outlaw grabbed three of his six rebounds in the closing minutes as the 23rd-ranked Cardinals continued a stint of four contests in five nights.
NE Mississippi will visit Sechrest Fieldhouse on Saturday for a solid top-25 encounter.
Worrell made 7-of-7 free throws, and scored a game-high 16 points for John A. Logan, which carried a 28-25 lead at intermission behind feisty defense of its own.
Dawson Civil found Preston Turner open for a 3-pointer, and Dickerson lobbed a pass back to Mawutor to put the Cardinals in front 14-12.
R.J. Walker countered with a couple of accurate jumpers while totaling 11 points with six rebounds, and James added turnaround bank shots with each hand before the first half concluded.
Fairman and Norris gave the Volunteers four players in double digits with 10 points each.