Here we go again.
The State Fair men’s basketball team faces a familiar opponent entering the Region 16 Tournament. Five days ago, the Roadrunners defeated Mineral State 84-69 to celebrate Homecoming.
Tonight, SFCC looks to win the rubber match against the No.2 seed Cardinals.
Expectations are higher than last year’s, when MSU-West Plains dismissed the bottom-seeded Roadrunners in the opening round.
Starting guard Willie Jimerson Jr. said there’s pressure to play well for the outgoing sophomores.
“We can’t lose, man,” Jimerson Jr. said. “We have to do it for the sophomores. The freshman want it too so we can get recruited, play on a big stage and get ranked next year. But it’s really for the sophomores.
“There’s something on the line.”
State Fair outscores and out-rebounds Mineral Area on a per-game basis. However, a high shooting percentage can neutralize a slight rebounding margin, and the Cardinals shoot 49 percent from the field and 38.6 from three.
Mineral Area shot 47 percent from the field and 44 percent from three in an 82-70 victory over the Roadrunners Jan. 23.
Head coach Kevin Thomas said an early 18-4 Cardinal run buried State Fair then, and how the Roadrunners respond to a run like that may determine their fate tonight.
“They’re a great shooting team,” Thomas said. “We’ve got to be able to withstand the barrage.”
Because State Fair and Mineral Area are well-acquainted opponents, Jimerson Jr. said the game will come down to small details.
“We know coming into it what they’re going to do,” Jimerson Jr. said. “It’s really who’s going to come to play, get the 50-50 balls, the little stuff.”
Montell Goodwin leads Mineral State in scoring with 12.6 points per game. Yashua Trent averages 12 points and four assists per game. Forwards Daniel Norl and Elliot Sentence average 10 points each.
The two-seeded Roadrunners play Mineral Area at 8p.m. in the Ozark Christian College Multipurpose Building in Joplin.
State Fair women at full-speed
After a thin lineup struggled to the tune of a 30-point deficit Saturday, the Lady Roadrunners are fully operational going into the Region 16 Tournament.
Despite those in the backcourt returning from injury, and the fact that State Fair swept their opponent – No. 3 seed Moberly Area – during the regular season, the Lady Roadrunners are in for a tough game.
Zhanesha Dickerson said Moberly forced State Fair play hard during their previous matchups.
“I can’t down Moberly,” Dickerson said. “In the past they have given us competition to make us work harder than we do against some of the other teams. It’s a great matchup for us.”
State Fair averages 11 more points per game than Moberly Area, outscoring the Greyhounds 73.1 to 64.7.
Dickerson leads State Fair with 11 points and 6 rebounds per game. Sierra Clayborn averages 11.8 points per game.
Williams, who scored 15 against Moberly in January, represents the toughness shown by State Fair throughout the season. Williams said she’s played through ankle, back, finger and other injuries since high school.
“I still try to really remind myself, ‘you can push through it,’” Williams said. “It’s not really nothing. If I can’t go, I can’t go. But if I feel like I can still go I’m going to.”
Last year, the top-seeded Lady Roadrunners fell to Mineral Area in the Region 16 Championship game. And while Mineral Area – a likely opponent in the next round – is on the radar, State Fair has goals beyond their region’s borders.
“We’re trying to make it to Texas,” Williams said, alluding to the NJCAA Division I National Tournament located in Lubbock, Texas.
During their loss to Mineral Area last Saturday, the Lady Roadrunners nearly closed the 30-point gap using their trademark full-court press, and, simply playing more focused.
Williams said it will take a full 40-minute effort to reach their goals tonight, and beyond.
“We’re trying to be hungry from the get-go,” Williams said. “From jump ball to the end.”
State Fair hosts Moberly Area today at 3 p.m. in the Ozark Christian College Multipurpose Building in Joplin.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2