NEOSHO, Mo. – Lainey Bell stepped up Saturday with the breakout performance of her two collegiate basketball seasons when the Mineral Area women needed a spark.
The sophomore forward easily smashed her previous career high by scoring 23 points, and the Lady Cardinals put Crowder away 65-56 for their sixth consecutive win.
Holly Forbes provided 18 points and nine rebounds in contest that saw starting guard and key perimeter threat Natalia Lalic leave the action with discomfort in her knee.
Mineral Area (18-5, 5-1) trailed throughout much of the first quarter, but outscored the Lady ‘Riders 20-10 during the second to secure a 33-24 halftime lead.
Bell perhaps shined brightest in the third stanza, when consecutive 3-pointers restored a 50-38 cushion after Crowder (11-14, 2-3) had briefly drawn within two.
The native of Hohenwald, Tenn. had twice tallied 16 points against non-region foes, but maximized her increased minutes as fouls and early turnovers plagued MAC.
Kourtney Shipley tallied 12 points, and Maegan Bandimere had 11 for Crowder, which grabbed a 14-7 advantage on a transition basket by Bethaney Gilkey.
Forbes sank a jumper just before the quarter expired, however, to bring MAC within one. Bell opened the second with a go-ahead, corner 3-pointer on her first shot of the game.
She struck again to complete a 13-0 run, and the Lady Cardinals never trailed again. Bell made a steal and found Masyn McWilliams ahead for a 25-16 lead.
Sydney Linny drained a 3-pointer off the Crowder bench, and Bandimere rolled in another to make it 38-36 after Mineral Area missed a couple of layups on the doorstep.
Keanna Williams answered with a basket to end that drought, and Forbes attacked the post to score on the next two offensive trips for Mineral Area.
Caitlyn Holmes stole an inbounds pass, and released a deflected outlet that Rionne Papa converted into a layup at the third-quarter buzzer.
The Lady Cardinals established their largest lead at 58-38 as Forbes finished from a tight angle along the baseline.
Lalic had six points, and hopes to return Wednesday for a home game against Jefferson.