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Cardinals bring defense to deal SE Iowa first loss

PARK HILLS – The Mineral Area men’s basketball team had no shortage of floor leaders while charging toward an unbeaten 2020-21 regular season and national tournament berth.

Returning guard Jamir Price appears to be shouldering a similar role in recent action, and once again highlighted the offensive attack for a third consecutive game.

But it was a stingy defense that ultimately set the tone on Tuesday night, as the Cardinals never trailed on their way to an impressive 81-56 victory over previously unbeaten Southeastern (Iowa).

Mineral Area (4-3) forced 19 turnovers and shot 50 percent from the field while going 18-of-23 from the line. Price tallied 21 points among five MAC players in double digits, and also dished out six assists.

Kenan Sarvan had a season-best 16 points plus six rebounds while Keonte Jones compiled 13 points with a game-high 10 rebounds off the bench.

The Cardinals jumped ahead 7-0 on a baseline drive and the lone shot taken by forward Ibo Drame, then cashed in off steals as 3-pointers by Gavin Harris and Lamontay Daughtery made it 16-3.

Koby Isaac scored 13 points and Gavin Kies added 10 in defeat as 16th-ranked Southeastern (8-1) waited until the 10:35 mark of the first half before netting its second made field goal.

Mineral Area stayed in front of shooters and helped effectively to disrupt several attempts to create off the dribble. The Blackhawks, who averaged 77 points per game, were flustered by 13 first-half turnovers.

The opening stanza ended as positively as it began for the Cardinals. Terry Ford dribbled three times and banked in a midcourt heave at the buzzer for a 41-24 cushion after taking the inbound pass with 3.5 seconds left.

Price connected from long range after scoring on a couple of aggressive drives, and Harris popped open near the edge of a lane off solid ball movement for a layup at 29-10.

Daughtery made a dazzling spin move for a basket with contact in the second half, but Southeastern offered its best stretch of execution to eventually draw within 49-38.

After Kies sank a 3-pointer, reserve guard Bruce Carpenter made a frontcourt steal and found Isaac cutting for a layup plus the foul.

Ford answered with a timely and more conventional triple, however, and Southeastern entered a downward spiral when Jesiah West continued to dispute a questionable foul call and was assessed a technical.

Sarvan followed with another dagger from long range, and a 10-0 spurt turned into a larger 22-3 outburst as Jones swished a three off an extra pass at 71-41 with 6:57 remaining.

Each team soon reached the double bonus, and the tempo eased drastically toward the conclusion as the Cardinals coasted to the win.

Harris drained 6-of-6 free throws while totaling 11 points, and Ford provided 10 for MAC. Price wound up shooting 8-of-12 from the field, and improved upon his 16.2 scoring average.

Mineral Area will continue a three-game homestand against NJCAA Division II foes Oakton (Ill.) on Friday and Fort Scott (Kan.) on Saturday.

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