By MATT KING
OLNEY, Ill. — The Mineral Area men’s basketball team moved one step closer to a perfect first semester while beating another ranked opponent on the road.
Sophomore forward Amarion Dickerson notched a double-double, and the ninth-ranked Cardinals held off Olney Central 75-66 on Wednesday night.
Mineral Area (13-0) went 9-of-10 from the line as plenty of physical play was permitted, and delivered two defensive stops to protect a dwindling two-possession lead in the closing moments.
Dickerson finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals while also drawing a pair of charging fouls. Tyler Smith added 10 points and four assists within a balanced attack.
Each time the raucous crowd tried to will 23rd-ranked Olney Central (7-2) toward a comeback, the Cardinals found a response.
The visitors established their largest lead of 66-51 when Dickerson claimed two straight offensive rebounds and drove for a successful scoop and foul for a 3-point play.
Mineral Area followed with a few unforced mistakes, along with a technical foul on Marcus Watson Jr. for shoving after the whistle for a timeout.
The Blue Knights capitalized with a 15-5 run, and eventually closed within 71-66 as Damarion Walkup swished consecutive 3-pointers from the top of the circle.
But a couple of his teammates badly misfired with a chance to further reduce the deficit, and perfect trips to the stripe by Dickerson and Smith solidified the win.
Josh Meo equaled Watson with nine points each, and Preston Turner matched Doreante Tucker with eight. The Cardinals are idle until hosting Dyersburg State next weekend at the Rotary Shootout.
Olney Central was held scoreless through the first four minutes, starting 0-of-6 from the field, but soon grabbed a 15-14 lead on a slashing layup by Darien Lewis.
The Cardinals countered with an 8-0 push that featured back-to-back dunks by Turner on a fast break and Richmond Muwator on a putback.
DelShawn Sims muscled in a leaner to answer a pull-up jumper by Meo as the Blue Knights got within 26-23, but 3-pointers by Turner and Dickerson restored a 32-25 separation.
The crowd implored for a defensive stop on the final possession of the first half, but Savon Sutton buried a deep triple after setting a high screen. MAC was ahead 41-34 at the break.
Muwator netted three field goals during a four-minute shift before giving way to back-up center Charles Outlaw, who collected eight rebounds for the Cardinals.
Walkup powered Olney Central off the bench with a game-high 21 points, and sank 6-of-6 from the line. The Blue Knights made 16-of-23 free throws, but shot only 36 percent from the field.
Lewis tallied 14 points, and J.T. Thomas added 12 before fouling out. Arda Duraklar, a 6-11 center from Turkey, provided 11 points and nine rebounds.