POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. – The Mineral Area women’s basketball team produced a 19-1 scoring run in the second quarter on Sunday to collect its second victory of opening weekend.
Natalia Lalic scored a game-high 18 points, Rionne Papa posted a powerful double-double, and the Lady Cardinals defeated Olney Central 79-55 at the Three Rivers Classic.
Mineral Area (2-0), which returns five sophomores this season with previous starting experience, limited the opposition to just 22 percent shooting.
Papa finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 from the field, plus 15 rebounds and four assists from the post. Masyn McWilliams also netted 16 in the victory.
Fouls were especially prevalent in the first half, and Olney Central (0-2) briefly grabbed a 22-19 lead as Jarissa Page sank a 3-pointer about 12 minutes into the game.
Mineral Area seized total command from there. McWilliams and Papa finished conventional 3-point plays, and Papa assisted on baskets by Lalic and Tyeshia Mitchell during a 14-0 spurt.
MAC freshman Shanti Henery left the action after her head contacted the floor in a collision. Angela Sorrell made a layup on the ensuing inbounds pass, and the Lady Cards built a 42-25 halftime lead.
Olney Central secured five offensive rebounds in two possessions to begin the third quarter, but trailed 55-38 when Papa crashed inside for a made shot through contact.
Lalic drilled her third 3-pointer of game following a MAC steal for a 62-39 lead. The Lady Cardinals made just 21-of-40 free throws, but were not threatened down the stretch.
Sorrell ended with eight points, and Riana Rangi-Brown added seven to the win. Ruby Benn sparked her squad off the bench with four assists, three steals and two blocks.
Arianna Silva scored 11 points for Olney Central, which finished 19-of-26 from the line.
Mineral Area 73, SE Illinois 71
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Mineral Area faced a much tougher test against a revamped SE Illinois lineup on Saturday, but escaped 73-71 following a superb start.
McWilliams blistered the nets in the first quarter, making her first five shots including three 3-pointers, and ended with a team-high 22 points.
Papa tallied 16 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals, and helped Mineral Area shoot 52 percent during the first half to lead 46-32.
That 14-point advantage mostly evaporated over the next seven minutes. SE Illinois rallied with a 20-7 run, and drew to within 53-52 on a baseline jumper by Nina Blade.
Lalic delivered a timely triple in response, and Papa powered in a putback off a missed free throw to restore a 61-54 margin late in the third quarter.
Staisha Hamilton dazzled with 27 points for the Falcons, and opened the fourth with her sixth and final 3-pointer of the day.
McWilliams countered with a slashing layup while drawing a foul, and the Cardinals made three pivotal defensive stops after SE Illinois trimmed its deficit to 71-69.
Two separate perimeter shots missed that would have put the Falcons in front, and Benn stepped in front of a pass for the clinching steal before dribbling out the remaining time.
Lalic notched 13 points, and Benn had four steals with four assists for the Lady Cardinals, who were 11-of-20 from the free-throw line.
Ten players on the MAC roster contributed points. Mitchell provided seven rebounds and six points to open her redshirt sophomore campaign after missing last year due to injury.
Mineral Area established a 27-13 lead late in the first quarter after McWilliams connected for a third time from long range, and Keanna Williams drove in for a layup on the ensuing possession.
Blade converted 7-of-8 at the stripe in a 19-point effort, and Alexis Radcriff netted 10 for SE Illinois.