PARK HILLS – The Mineral Area women’s basketball team produced one of its best shooting performances of the season on Wednesday, despite missing its top perimeter threat.
Masyn McWilliams scored 16 points while making four assists, and the Lady Cardinals connected on 56 percent from the field to handle Jefferson 75-57 for their seventh consecutive win.
All nine available players contributed to an attack that stressed sharing the ball and included a substantial number of accurate jumpers from between 13 and 18 feet away.
Holly Forbes patiently finished 5-of-6 overall while totaling 11 points and nine rebounds for Mineral Area (19-5, 6-1) ahead of its first-place showdown with Three Rivers on Saturday.
Lainey Bell added 11 points after starring with a career-high 23 in her previous contest, and Georgia Sideri added nine to bolster a 25-3 advantage in bench scoring.
Tyra Brown netted a game-high 17 points in 38 minutes for Jefferson (6-17, 0-7), which suffered just nine turnovers in defeat but surrendered a 13-0 run to close the first half.
Arcadia Valley graduate Briar Johnson tallied 15 points plus six rebounds on only five attempts from the field. She notched a putback and a long baseline jumper within the first three minutes.
The contest was tied 12-12 before Mineral Area gained modest separation. Keanna Williams slashed for a go-ahead layup, and McWilliams followed by swishing a 17-footer.
The Lady Cardinals registered two buzzer beaters, the first of which occurred as Rionne Papa grasped possession and immediately fired just in time from near the left elbow.
Forbes showed her versatility by dribbling nearly 50 feet after receiving an inbounds pass, and flipped a running layup off the glass as time expired for a 39-22 halftime lead.
That play culminated a dominant second quarter for the Lady Cardinals, whose starting lineup changed with Bell replacing freshman guard Natalia Lalic as she rested a tender knee.
Caitlyn Holmes provided five rebounds before the break, and reeled in a pass from McWilliams with an outstretched hand to punctuate a transition layup.
Jefferson pulled to within 26-22 after Johnson nailed a corner triple and Brown added a jumper, then encountered a pivotal dry spell over the next 4 ½ minutes.
Bell knocked down a couple of jumpers and executed a nice lob pass to Papa near the goal. McWilliams continued her steady game moments later with a sudden drive and left-handed layup.
Forbes provided a powerful putback early in the third quarter, and McWilliams attacked twice to score while drawing fouls. Subsequent jumpers by Holmes and Claire Busse made it 55-30.
Johnson entered the night as the national leader in free-throw percentage. She improved to 64-of-69 on the season (92.8 percent) after going a perfect 8-of-8, exclusively in the fourth quarter.
Kinsley Payne propelled Mineral Area across the finish line with eight points over the final eight minutes. Her first jumper yielded the largest lead of the game at 65-39.
Williams compiled eight points, six rebounds and four assists for the Lady Cardinals, who can clinch a first-round bye for the upcoming Region 16 tournament on Saturday.
Amber Kettering pitched in 15 points for the Vikings, who went 16-of-18 from the line. Jefferson has dropped 10 of its last 11 games.