(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
BLOOMFIELD -- For the sixth straight year, the Dexter Bearcats are the kings of Bloomfield.
Dexter defeated Twin Rivers on Tuesday night in the 47th Annual Bloomfield Christmas Tournament 67-53 to claim its sixth consecutive championship.
And for head coach Eric Sitze, who has led the Bearcats to the last three titles after taking over the program from Paul Hale, the pressure to keep the streak alive is always increasing.
"I thought we had a good enough team to win it this year," said Sitze. "I felt like there was a lot of pressure on me and the team. I can't explain it. We've had some great kids come through here. We've really been blessed. You've got to give credit to the kids."
In other games, East Carter County defeated Doniphan in the third place game 74-69; Portageville beat South Pemiscot 51-44 in the fifth place game; and Kennett beat Van Buren in the consolation championship 43-40.
As they have done in the previous five tournaments, Dexter used superior depth, stellar free throw shooting and converted turnovers into points to win the championship going away.
After the two teams played to a 12-12 tie in the first quarter, Dexter took control in the second and never trailed from there.
Dexter senior Derek Demaree, who scored a game-high 25 points, hit a 3-pointer just before the second quarter horn sounded to extend the Bearcat lead to 28-20.
"He's got the total package for a high school basketball player," said Twin Rivers head coach Jim Vaughan of Demaree. "He's got a good post up game, he's long, 6-6, and he can step out and put a dart in you from out there. We knew that, it's no secret to anybody, but too many times we gave him too much room. He's a big player in a big game and he's going to make big plays."
Twin Rivers got as close as 33-32 with 3:31 left in the third quarter but they would get no closer.
A Matt Stanford basket made it 37-34, but Dexter got six straight points from reserves Justin Devers and Scott Admire.
"I thought a big turning point was when we put in some of the subs there," said Sitze. "And you could tell a lot of difference between their intensity and the starter's intensity."
Devers connected on a 3-pointer to increase the lead to 40-34. Admire then stole the ensuing inbounds pass and converted an old-fashioned 3-point play to make it 43-34 with 1:49 left in the third.
It was a run that Twin Rivers couldn't answer.
"That was definitely a turning point because we were making a run," said Vaughan. "We left a guy wide open which -- everyone of them are going to be able to shoot the basketball. That's Dexter's forte, they've got kids that can put the ball in the hole. They had that play, then we made a poor decision on where we throw the ball and when we throw the ball. We passed it right underneath their basket and we didn't wait for our guy to get open."
Twin Rivers closed the gap to 43-40 early in the fourth quarter but couldn't get any closer.
Dexter responded with a 6-0 run and never let the score get closer than seven the rest of the way.
The final margin of 14 points was the largest lead of the game.
"We didn't have another punch to go with the second run they had," said Vaughan. "Too many times offensively we got in a hurry and they capitalized on those mistakes."
Dexter has now won 41 games in a row on Bloomfield's court.
Demaree, who averaged a tournament-high 23 points per game, probably saved his best effort for Tuesday night's championship.
"We ask Derek to do a lot," said Sitze. "He probably plays the most minutes for us. He's got a great touch outside. He's a big body inside -- good touch around the basket and a real active basketball player."
Despite scoring just two points in the championship game, 6-foot-6 senior James Ford's contributions didn't go unnoticed as he was rewarded with an all-tournament selection along with Demaree.
"I extremely proud for James," said Sitze. "He's a humble kid. You even heard opponents cheering for James when he made the all-tournament team because he has probably zero athletic ability. I'd almost cry for him because he's got a big heart. That made his high school career right there."
Dexter made 20-of-25 free throws on the night.
After Demaree, Josh Miller was the only other Dexter player in double figures with 12 points.
Twin Rivers saw three different players reach double figures as 6-5 senior Jason Baucom had 17 points, sophomore Michael Lance had 16 and Brandon Lowe added 12 points.
Baucom, Lance and Matt Stanford all made the all-tournament team.
East Carter County overcame a distinct size disadvantage with an aggressive offensive strategy.
The Redbirds made it to the foul line 40 times, making 22. Doniphan only had 10 attempts, making seven.
Doniphan led 16-11 after one quarter and 30-29 at the half.
The Redbirds took the lead heading into the third quarter when Brandon Crook made a 3-pointer to lead 48-47. Doniphan quickly worked the ball up the floor and found 6-foot-8 sophomore Matt Rogers for a slam dunk to retake the lead with less than 10 seconds left.
But Crook was able to hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give East Carter a 51-49 lead heading into the fourth.
The Redbirds held on from there.
Tyler Stahl led the way with 22 points. Crook added 15 and David Reynolds had 14 points. Trevor Douglas chipped in with 12 points.
Reynolds and Stahl both made the all-tournament team.
Doniphan got 22 points out of Brett Reed. Stephen Riechers had 14 points.
Rogers continued his impressive tournament by scoring 17 points, grabbing 11 rebounds and blocking eight shots. He was selected to the all-tournament team.
Portageville jumped out to a 13-0 lead and looked primed to run South Pemiscot out of the gym.
Portageville led 17-4 after one quarter and 33-17 at halftime.
But South Pemiscot cut the lead to 40-29 heading into the fourth quarter where they got as close as six but couldn't get any closer.
"I told them in the first quarter, 'if you think this is going to happen this way in the fourth quarter, it's not,'" said Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell. "We got lazy and quit rebounding and we quit taking the extra step on defense. We're not good enough to be lazy."
Portageville was led by Jordan Penn's 16 points. Willie Hassell had 14 points and Jimmy Larry added 10 points.
Hassell made the all-tournament team.
"We were able to play four games and come away with a 3-1 record," said Bidewell. "We're pleased, but we've got a long way to go. We're just trying to put something together."
South Pemiscot was led by Alonzo Jones' 14 points. Percy Brock, who made the all-tournament team, finished with eight points.
Kennett trailed 25-20 at the half but picked up the defense in the second half, limiting Van Buren to 15 points.
Kennett was led by Cody Robinson's 11 points.
Tyler Cleaver, an all-tournament selection, finished with 10 points to lead Van Buren.
The 12th member of the all-tournament team was Bloomfield's Tim Perry.