PARK HILLS – The Mineral Area men’s basketball team forced 21 turnovers, and created a number of productive transition attacks during the second half on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals outscored visiting SW Illinois 22-8 during a five-minute stretch, and would not face a further challenge while rolling 88-67 in their home opener.
Freshman guard Angelo Stuart sank five 3-pointers with quality looks from the corner, and netted 16 of his game-high 22 points after halftime to lead Mineral Area (3-0).
Ja’Quaye James totaled 13 points along with seven assists, and Malevy Leons added 11 points plus nine rebounds. The Cardinals shot 10-of-23 from beyond the arc.
Kevin Caldwell and Harold Bennett each scored 12 points, and Charles Jones had 10 for SW Illinois (1-1), which claimed its largest and final advantage at 20-16.
Tristian Mullins answered with back-to-back threes, and Kayyaun Batchman switched hands during his ascent to a driving layup as MAC established an eventual 32-23 lead.
Mineral Area employed wholesale substitutions to keep its lineup fresh throughout the night, and ended with a manageable total of 12 turnovers, including just four in the second half.
Lamarius Lillard dunked off a baseline cut just before the halftime buzzer to make it 35-31, and the Blue Storm stayed within 45-41 on a transition slam by Trey Jenkins.
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But the Cardinals would beat the opposing defense to the rim for numerous baskets, and capitalized on fouls by making 15-of-16 free throws in the second half.
Stuart drilled a 3-pointer from a long outlet pass by James, and Kevin Stone assisted Stuart for a fast-break layup on the next MAC possession.
Leons showed his athleticism at 6-foot-9 to dribble through three smaller players and find Kevin Legardy ahead for another triple and a 59-49 cushion with 11:34 to play.
That shot sparked an 11-0 run that James capped with a quick-release three from the top of the circle, and Terrion Murdix found Gabe O’Neal for two scores inside and a 75-56 lead.
O’Neal, the lone returning sophomore on the Cardinals’ listed roster of 11, collected nine points, five rebounds and three blocks.
James, a sophomore transfer from Navarro (Texas) and native of Harlem, N.Y., handed the Cardinals their largest margin at 83-60 with an explosive driving layup.
Batchman was a perfect 7-of-7 from the line, and tallied 11 points as the fourth Mineral Area player in double figures. The teams are scheduled for a rematch on Tuesday in Belleville, Ill.