PARK HILLS – A relatively lenient schedule before Christmas left the unbeaten Mineral Area men’s basketball team without a serious challenge through 40 full minutes.
The dawn of Region 16 competition immediately reversed that trend, and the Cardinals have since passed two severe tests while soaring to 19-0 overall.
A dramatic 3-pointer by Malevy Leons in the final seconds against Three Rivers and comeback from 13 points down against MSU-West Plains last Saturday have become signature moments.
But the road only gets tougher from here. Mineral Area will travel to powerful Moberly while carrying its highest national ranking in more than a decade.
The latest NJCAA Division I poll was released on Monday afternoon, moving the Cardinals ahead two spots to No. 3 behind only 17-1 Ranger (Texas) and 19-1 Florida Southwestern.
You have free articles remaining.
Mineral Area peaked at No. 4 three years ago during a school record 24-game win streak that would ultimately fizzle in a road loss at Moberly.
A victory this time over the Greyhounds, who are currently receiving votes for the top 25, could prove especially beneficial for a MAC squad that features four freshman starters.
Although the Cardinals have no wins against currently ranked opponents on their resume, they have managed to avoid any potentially damaging losses for postseason consideration.
Mineral Area stood fourth throughout the NJCAA in scoring defense at 61.2 points allowed per game entering Tuesday, and second in free-throw percentage at 78.7 as a club.
Five players are averaging double-digit points, led by guard Angelo Stuart at 16.5, while two others are above also nine. Terrion Murdix lead the team at 5.9 assists and 3.7 steals.