(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Heading into the season, Dexter girls basketball coach Gavin Miller wasn't sure of what to expect.
After the Lady Bearcats' opener at Sikeston on Thursday night, one thing is certain.
Dexter has a good player.
Strike that. Dexter has a very good player.
Six-foot junior Rachel Blunt had an impressive debut, scoring 28 points to lead the Lady Bearcats to a 65-54 win over the Lady Bulldogs.
"She's the best junior I've ever had, and one of the best juniors I've seen in this area," said Miller. "And she's only going to get better. This girl is in the gym every day at 7 a.m. from August 14th on. She goes to class dripping wet. That's the kind of girl you want to coach."
Along with carrying the offensive load, Blunt also got her teammates involved, finishing with four assists and six rebounds. On several occasions, she found Taylor Nelson underneath the goal for an easy layup.
Nelson finished with 12 points and eight rebounds in the win. "Our biggest problem tonight -- we didn't put a butt on anybody," said Sikeston coach Lee Brooks. "We didn't block out, and they got two or three chances on every possession."
Sikeston jumped out to a 6-2 lead with baskets from Robyn Morris, Allison Blurton and Mia Welch. Blunt produced a conventional 3-point play, then hit two free throws at the 5:47 mark to give Dexter a lead they would never relinquish.
Later in the opening period, Dexter's Charlotte Johnson knocked down two 3-pointers as Dexter increased its lead to 13. Blurton shaved the lead back to 10 with a 3-pointer to end the first with a score of 23-13.
Blurton came out and drilled another trey to open the second frame. She finished with five 3-pointers overall, scoring 21 in the loss.
"She's just a quality player," said Brooks. "Kids like that, you don't coach much. You just let them go out there and play. On offense and defense, she gives 120 percent every play."
After two Johnson free throws, Dexter matched Sikeston basket for basket the rest of the quarter to take a 36-26 halftime lead.
"None of these girls played against them last year, and we didn't know what to expect," explained Brooks. "They came out with a great gameplan. We adjusted later in the game, but we didn't do it soon enough."
Dexter opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run went on to outscore the Lady Bulldogs 23-10 in the period.
Faced with a 23-point deficit, Sikeston rallied behind the outside shooting of Blurton. With four minutes left in regulation, she hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game to cut the lead down to 13.
"These girls don't quit, and I like that," said Brooks. "We're going to be okay. We're just a little inexperienced."
After another Blurton trey and a few Dexter free throws, sophomore Paige Silverthorn scored the final basket of the game to make the final 65-54.
"I'm happy go get a victory, but we've got to get better defensively," said Miller. "Our first step is just pathetically slow. We've got to be able to handle the ball better in these situations. There are a lot of areas we need to get better at."
Sikeston (1-1) will be back in action on Monday in the Chaffee Tournament. Dexter (1-0) will host Senath on Monday.
"I would have loved to play all the girls on my bench," said Miller. "With a 23-point lead, I was getting ready to start unloading them. I wanted two good minutes out of my starters. It's a shame I had to keep them in there the whole fourth quarter. (Sikeston) just kept firing away and Blurton just kept nailing those threes."
Dexter also won Thursday's junior varsity game 44-24. Haylee Finch paced the Lady Bearcats with 19 points. Sikeston was led by Latoya Gipson with nine.
BENTON -- Kelly Essner scored 18 points and Mindy Robert added 16 as Kelly cruised past Chaffee on Thursday night, 59-36.
The Lady Hawks led just 7-4 after the first quarter but went on to outscored Chaffee 20-14 in the second, 21-11 in the third, then 11-7 in the fourth.
"I was very pleased with the effort the girls came out with tonight," said Kelly head coach Rod McQuerter. "We played very hard with a lot of intensity."
Chaffee was led by Kegan Orr and Samantha Hendrix with nine points each.
Kelly (2-0) will face East Prairie in the first round of the Chaffee Tournament on Monday.
"We just want the girls to come out every night, strap it up and play hard," said McQuerter. "If they do that, the wins and losses will take care of themselves."
DELTA -- Kaci Menz scored 17 points while Sarah Cook and Shea Smith each added 15 in Delta's 77-29 win over East Prairie.
Delta jumped out to a 20-10 lead and never looked back, outscoring the Lady Eagles 22-3 in the second, 21-8 in the third and 14-8 in the fourth.
Asia Tipler paced East Prairie with 11 points.