SENATOBIA, Miss. – Mineral Area freshman Holly Forbes powered her way toward the goal and finished a layup through contact to break a tie against Northwest Mississippi with 16 seconds to play on Thursday.
Despite missing the ensuing free throw, Forbes finished with a game-high 27 points and 10 rebounds as the Lady Cardinals withstood an unsuccessful final shot from the opposition for a 71-69 victory.
Mineral Area (6-0) began the fourth quarter facing a 59-54 deficit, but gradually narrowed the gap. Forbes recorded her third steal and capped the fast break with a layup, seconds after splitting a pair of free throws for a 63-60 lead with six minutes to play.
Starting point guard Madison Reynolds received her fifth foul less than a minute later, and was forced to sit for the Lady Cardinals.
The Mineral Area defense maintained its slight advantage until Nakia Walker sank her first 3-pointer on five attempts to tie the score at 67-67 for NW Mississippi (1-3) with two minutes remaining.
Forbes and Ciara Pettis exchanged layups on subsequent possessions with less than a minute to play. Pettis attempted a game-tying jumper after the go-ahead basket from Forbes, but it popped out as time expired.
Tyeshia Mitchell, who notched 10 points and five rebounds, drew a key charge down the stretch to help the Lady Cardinals.
Mercades Ward scored the first six points of the contest within an 8-0 start by the Lady Rangers, and tallied team highs with 14 points plus eight assists.
Allie Golden snapped the NW Mississippi run by hitting a layup with seven minutes to play in the first quarter. Reynolds battled for rebounds early, and her persistence paid off with a putback to make the score 11-4.
Ella Gobald drained her first two shots from behind the arc in the opening period, but Mineral Area trailed 24-21 at its conclusion.
Golden recorded 11 points and nine rebounds, while Gobald had 10 points.
Briar Johnson made her first 3-point try to open the second quarter and tie the game at 24-24. Mitchell later helped Mineral Area move ahead 33-31 on her first triple of the game.
However, Ward drained her fourth shot from long range, and Destiny Gaylor added a mid-range jumper for a 45-40 NW Mississippi lead at halftime.
The third quarter began with nearly two scoreless minutes until Makenzy Smith sank a jumper for the Lady Cardinals. She later gave them a 50-48 edge by converting a layup midway through the stanza.
Forbes and Reynolds each were whistled for their fourth fouls nearing the final period, and Mineral Area fell behind with them on the bench.
Chrissah Shaw provided 12 points and five rebounds for NW Mississippi, while Kayla Bradley contributed 10 points.