Remember the last time Dexter didn't win the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament?
The year was 1997. With eight seconds left on the clock, and the score knotted at 50 in the championship game, Doniphan's Nic Wilson drove the length of the floor and released a 17-footer in the final seconds.
The shot dropped, giving the Dons a thrilling 52-50 win over Portageville. The game's atmosphere was typical by Bloomfield Tournament standards at the time: off the charts.
Until recently, the event was second to none among Christmas tournaments in the tri-state area. Holiday events in Poplar Bluff, Cape Girardeau and Carbondale all drew solid teams, but none could live up to the Bloomfield experience.
That was until Dexter decided to ruin the tournament's down-to-the-wire tradition and rip off four straight championships from '98 to '01. In that span, close games were few and far between.
It has been total domination.
Championship games looked more like first rounders with the Bearcats pummeling Doniphan 70-43 in '98, Portageville 67-54 in '99, then Doniphan again in '00, 75-67. Last year Dexter became the first school to win four straight Bloomfield titles with a convincing 64-50 victory over Portageville.
This year the Bearcats were seeded second behind Twin Rivers. The area got a possible championship preview last Tuesday night, with Dexter beating the Royals at Broseley, 50-49. Regardless of the seeds, Dexter is still the team to beat at the Bloomfield Tournament. Two of its three losses this year came against Charleston and Sikeston, and both games could've gone either way. The other was against Poplar Bluff, the best team in the area.
Twin Rivers showed some signs of weakness both last Tuesday against Dexter and in the Oran Tournament, squeaking by the host Eagles in the title game.
I say the Bearcats win their fifth straight Bloomfield title. Behind Dexter and Twin Rivers, Kennett checks in as the No. 3 seed. The Indians are down this year, and the fact that they're third shows the tournament won't be as strong as it has been.
The Indians got some respect by beating Portageville in the regular season 50-45, but the Bulldogs played without two key players and it was their first game of the season. Kennett struggled in the Sikeston Tournament, going two-and-out.
Portageville is the No. 4 seed, coming off a lopsided loss to Twin Rivers last Saturday. The Bulldogs didn't provide much offense in that game, scoring five points in the second quarter and four in the third.
Bidewell's boys have a pretty good track record at Bloomfield, but they're very inexperienced this year, and the road looks tough.
After they beat Puxico in the first round, they will more than likely run into East Carter in the semifinals. The Redbirds return everything from last year's team, and might be a darkhorse as the No. 5 seed.
Doniphan could also make some noise as the No. 6 seed. Getting to the semifinals would require wins over Greenville and Kennett.
Behind Doniphan, Bloomfield is No. 7, their highest seed in several years. The Wildcats probably don't have enough firepower, but No. 8 Hayti might.
The Indians are slowly getting into basketball shape and have the athletes to pull off an upset if they can hit a 3-pointer every once in a while.
The rest of the seeds are No. 9 Malden, No. 10 South Pemiscot, No. 11 Bernie, No. 12 Van Buren, No. 13 Puxico, No. 14 Greenville, No. 15 East Prairie and No. 16 Richland. None of those teams have a chance.