The Mineral Area men’s basketball team has a prime opportunity to make a deeper playoff run than last year's record-setting squad did.
The Cardinals achieved a final 28-3 record in 2016-17, which included a 24-game win streak and the most single-season victories in program history.
However, the robust team had its campaign cut short due to a 71-70 loss to Region 16 foe Three Rivers in the semifinal round of the region tournament.
The Cardinals (21-7, 4-3) have since earned a regular season sweep to pay back Three Rivers with an 82-69 triumph at home in January, and a 72-70 road win last Saturday.
Mineral Area still has one obstacle to clear before the start of tournament play, in a road rematch Saturday against rival State Fair (18-9, 3-4). The Cardinals secured a slim 76-72 victory in their previous matchup about three weeks ago.
The upcoming game will settle postseason seeding. If the Cardinals win, they will secure the No. 2 seed and move directly into the region semifinals.
A loss could complicate matters, depending on how MSU-West Plains fares against Moberly on Saturday. If Mineral Area falls to fourth seed, then the first-round bye would be lost, and a first-round game against Three Rivers would instead take place on Tuesday.
The Cardinals seek their first Region 16 crown since defeating Moberly in the championship in the 2014-2015 season, when they finished 27-3 and ranked No. 10 nationally.
The Mineral Area women’s basketball team also has a shot to host the first round of the Region 16 Tournament with a triumph against State Fair on Saturday.
The Lady Cardinals (15-10, 4-5) battled the Roadrunners earlier this month for an 81-73 triumph.
Mineral Area resides at a better spot than it had near the end of last season, despite a No. 4 seed being the best possible outcome.
The Lady Cardinals entered the tournament last year seeded fifth with a 3-7 Region record, but knocked off top-seeded Three Rivers in the semifinals, and defeated Crowder to secure their second Region 16 title in three years.
Mineral Area ended just one game shy of the NJCAA tournament with a loss to Iowa Western at home.