BERNIE - It was another typical game in the long and storied history of Dexter-Bernie high school basketball.
Lots of intensity and emotion from the players and fans. Some trash talking and plenty of pushing and shoving by the players. A few near skirmishes and a technical foul. Yes, another ho-hum meeting between the two county rivals.
This time around it was Dexter's turn to take the SCAA Conference win, 69-51, but not before the young and out-manned Mules went down kicking and fighting until the final buzzer sounded.
"If our kids and fans would get up for every game like they get up for Dexter, we would probably be all right," Bernie coach Morris Karnes said after the game. "I told coach Botsch (assistant coach Neil), I probably had a half dozen people today at school tell be 'good luck tonight.' Normal games I don't get that near as much."
Dexter (12-3) came out and played like the state's third ranked team in Class 4 as Chris Guethle hit a 3-pointer on the first shot of the game and the Bearcats went on to knock down 10-of-11 from the floor in the first quarter.
Dexter's opening offensive outburst, coupled with a smothering pressure defense that limited the young Mules to 2-of-12 shooting in the first eight minutes, all but closed the door on any possible upset.
To Bernie's credit, the Mules (5-7) are without their best player in senior Zach Dill (out with a hand injury) and are starting four sophomores and one junior.
"Our kids are getting better," Karnes said of his young warriors. "They've improved a bunch this last year. If they'll just keep getting better and even this year if we can get Dill back - if he could get healthy and get back - because we're really missing him handling the basketball and giving us another scorer."
Karnes said while he sees improvement from his team each time out, it's no secret that Dexter has a good team, he added, noting that the state-ranked 'Cats didn't beat Portageville by 20 and win the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament simply by showing up.
"Coach Sitze (Dexter coach Eric) does a great job with those guys," Karnes said. "He probably don't get the credit around the area that he should get for the job he's done since he's been at Dexter. They have a good program and a good team, but I was proud of our guys for competing."
Karnes said this Monday will mark four weeks since Dill's injury he sustained from a fall on ice after a practice and they are hopeful Doctors will clear him to return to practice. Doctors had given a four-to-six week time frame for the injury to heal.
Without Dill in the lineup, junior Britt Arnold has carried Bernie offensively and he responded against Dexter with a game-high 29 points. Arnold got some support from Doug Johnson, who delivered 12 points on four 3-pointers, but it wasn't enough to keep pace with Dexter.
Junior Eric Rinehart poured in 23 points for Dexter while Anthony Elfrink netted 18. Dexter was able to go to its bench early in the first quarter and every player saw extensive court time.
Dexter, now 3-3 in SEMO Conference play and 3-0 in SCAA play, will next be in action Tuesday night at home when the Bearcats will host Puxico. Junior varsity play is set for 6 p.m. with varsity action to follow.
In junior varsity play at Bernie, the Bearcats earned a 69-48 win to improve to 9-2 on the season. Drew Satterfield's 17 points and Kyle Karmas' 14 paced the young 'Cats.
Bernie, 2-7, was led by Nolan Blevins with 16 points and 11 from Silas Dill.
Bernie will next be in action Tuesday night when the Mules will host Neelyville with 6 p.m. jayvee action, followed by varsity play.