Mineral Area has won 10 games so far this season. Half of those were against Region XVI teams.
The Cardinals went undefeated in the Region XVI Showdown, including a 61-60 win over Three Rivers, making them the team to beat in coach Jeff Walk’s eyes heading into the official region calendar.
“I’m in the opinion that it is going to be great for everybody,” Walk said of the Showdown. “You know what everyone is doing and you can prepare for that, and I think it will build some excitement for the fans.”
In the Showdown, Mineral Area also beat Moberly Area by just two points, so while they are the only team undefeated against Region XVI competition, they are leading the field by a slim margin.
“We know if we make some layups, we have a good chance of winning that game,” Walk said. “I don’t expect any other type of game … When we play it is always a battle.”
Masyn McWilliams leads Mineral Area with 16.5 points, Rionne Papa is averaging 12 and Natalia Lalic is scoring 10.6.
The Cardinals’ top six scorers are sophomores, who will remember being swept by Three Rivers last season.
Papa led the Cardinals with 16 points in the first matchup against Three Rivers while Lalic and McWilliams each had 13.
The Lady Raiders, meanwhile, got 18 points from Deanay Watson and 10 from Jordan Little.
“We’ve got to make sure we don’t give them runouts and make sure we have somebody back,” Walk said. “When we get to the rim, we have to finish that shot at the end.”
Three Rivers is averaging 88 points per game while the Cardinals are averaging 69, making Saturday’s contest a battle to see if which team will force the other to play their pace and style of basketball.
In previous years, it is always a question of how the freshmen will handle the increased intensity of Region XVI games. But the Showdown should have taught the Raiders everything they need to know.
Said Walk, “Now they’ve got a little bit of a taste and hopefully they’ll be ready to go.”
Of Three Rivers’ four losses this season, two were to region opponents in Mineral Area and Moberly Area, and the other two were to 17th-ranked Wabash Valley and 22nd-ranked Wallace State. All four teams have at least 10 wins entering the new year.
Mineral Area does not rank in the Top 25 in the country in any statistic but is 110 spots better than Three Rivers in turnovers per game. The Cardinals are committing about five fewer turnovers per game than the Raiders. Walk said ball control and concentration have to focal points in practice this week.
The Lady Raiders, meanwhile, enter 2020 ranked second in the country in points per game (88.3), third in field goals per game (33.1), and eighth in both rebounding margin (21.1) and 3-pointers per game (8.9).
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic