JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Mineral Area men's basketball team overcame its aches and pains to earn its first Region 16 final appearance in three years.
The Cardinals defeated State Fair 76-64 on Thursday night to advance and avenge a road loss from five days earlier.
Mineral Area and MSU-West Plains will meet in the championship game on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Jason Gym. The top two seeds in the bracket fell as MSU-West Plains earlier bounced 11th-ranked Moberly 88-87.
Lance Singh and Bobby Parker each provided scoring from a variety of spots on the floor to help Mineral Area (23-8) hold a lead during the majority of the contest.
Singh ended with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Parker notched 11 points in his first game back since an ankle injury nearly a month ago.
Jamie Ahale drained four 3-pointers and finished with 17 points for the Cardinals, while Maurice Edwards tallied eight points plus six rebounds.
Tyreek Scott-Grayson paced all players with 18 points for State Fair (19-10), while LaPear Toles recorded 11 points plus a game-high 11 rebounds. Derrick Brock Jr. was perfect on three perimeter shots, and added 11 points.
The Roadrunners built a quick 9-2 edge during the first three minutes by working the ball inside. The Cardinals immediately answered with an 11-0 run behind tenacious rebounding by Kevin Hamlet.
Zach Cameron and Hamlet frequently altered shots to protect the goal for Mineral Area in a close battle throughout the remainder of the first half.
Parker nailed a 3-pointer to put the Cardinals ahead 27-25 with about 4:34 left before halftime.
Ahale added a shot from the perimeter with 30 seconds on the clock, then Cameron closed the half with authority by slamming down a rebound as time expired for a 39-35 edge.
State Fair earned several early chances to narrow the difference from the free-throw line, but finished just 4-of-15 while Mineral Area sank 14-of-20 free throws.
The Cardinals established a 9-point lead four different times over the first 12 minutes of the second half. Singh increased it to double digits at 60-50 by connecting twice from the line with 6:53 to play.
Roman Young, who continues to battle an ailing shoulder, converted his first field goal on a 3-pointer, and Mineral Area captured a 68-56 advantage.
State Fair remained aggressive down the stretch with consistent drives to the basket, but struggled to capitalize at the line.