CAPE GIRARDEAU - Dexter's Eric Rinehart scored a game-high 29 points but it wasn't enough as the Bearcats fell to the Cape Central Tigers, 72-70 on the road Friday night.
A Cape Central turnover will eight seconds remaining in regulation gave Dexter a chance for the tie, but the Tigers stepped up the defensive pressure a notch and forced an off balance attempt that barely caught the front of the rim as time expired.
"You can't take too many negatives from it this time of year," Dexter coach Eric Sitze said after his team dropped to 20-5 on the year. "We didn't rebound very good the first half and their penetration hurt us the second half, dumping it down.
"We did some good things offensively, except for shooting free throws," Sitze continued. "We didn't shot them well enough tonight and in a two point game, free throws are big. There are some positive things we can take from this game and there are some things that we need to work on."
Class 5 Cape Central out-rebounded Dexter 43-29, and the Bearcats could only manage to connect on half of their free throws (11-of-22). The Tigers were only slightly better from the charity strip but they had eight more attempts, 19-of-30 for 63 percent.
Fouls plagued the Bearcats throughout the game as senior floor-leader Chris Guethle was forced to the bench at the 5:59 mark of the second period with his third. With Guethle on the bench, Rinehart cranked it up and scored 14 points to help Dexter cling to a 38-35 lead at half-time.
Guethle (10 points) came out and opened the scoring in the third with a 3-
pointer, but the 6'5" forward was again forced to set out when he was called for his fourth foul at the 6:14 mark.
"I don't know how much he played, it seemed like a quarter and a half," Sitze said. "It didn't seem like he was in there at all tonight. Our bench is short of people right now, so it was a factor."
In addition to Guethle, Levi Rawson (11 points) set out most the of the third period with his fourth foul. Dexter was also without senior Andrew Boone who suffered a broken finger in practice earlier in the week and was in street clothes on the bench. Sitze said Boone is expected to be ready for first-round district play Wednesday at Perryville.
A Rawson basket at the 5:40 mark of the third gave Dexter what would be the game's largest lead (47-38), but the Tigers would string together a 9-0 run to retake the lead, 50-49 with 2:41 in the third.
The game would be a see-saw affair from early in the first and featured 16 lead changes and nine ties. Dexter held a slim 53-52 lead entering the fourth and the two teams would trade the lead 10 times over the exciting last eight minutes of play.
Eli Harris, who led the Tigers with 21 points, gave his team the lead for good (70-68) with 40 seconds remaining. Dexter forced a couple of shots late and were forced to foul. Cape Central was able to convert 2-of-4 free throws after Dexter misses to take a 72-68 lead with 13 seconds remaining.
Scott Admire (6 points) hit two from the charity strip with nine seconds showing (72-70) and when Cape Central threw the inbound pass away it opened the door for Dexter's last shot at the tie which came up short.
"We wanted to stay close and try to win it in the fourth," Cape Central coach Derek McCord said after the win that improved the Tigers' record to 12-13 on the season. "One of the things we talked about was rebounding and we out rebounded them 43-29.
"I think if you had to pick MVP's you obviously look at Rinehart and the super job he did," McCord continued. " We counted seven offensive rebounds that he had. Anthony Hempstead (15 points) had 15 for us, and that's pretty good for 6-2. Eli Harris had 10 (rebounds).
" We wanted to win the battle of the boards and we wanted win turnovers," he added. " We won the battle of the boards, but we still had about 14 or 15 turnovers and we've got to do a better job there.
"Your goal as a coach is to play your best basketball late, and I really think we are now," McCord added. "We took Charleston to the wire the other night. We got beat by Jackson, who had beaten us twice earlier, at the buzzer, so I really feel like we're playing our best basketball right now and we're looking forward to districts."
In junior varsity action Dexter defeated the Cape Central, 66-58.
Drew Satterfield (17 points) and David Hessling (14 points) paced the jayvee 'Cats, who finished the regular season at 16-4. The Tigers slipped to 15-8 on the year with the loss.
Freshman Andrian Cox led the Tigers with 18 points, scoring all 14 of his team's points in the fourth quarter.
Dexter will next be in action Wednesday night when they will open Class 4 District 1 play at Perryville as the number one seed. The Bearcats will play the winner of Monday night's Perryville-Fredericktown winner.
Dexter's Lady Bearcats will be in action at the same district tournament Thursday night, against the winner of Cape Notre Dame-Sikeston. The Lady Bearcats are also tabbed as the top seed.
Both district games for Dexter will tip-off at 6 p.m.