One day after getting by third-seeded Sikeston 59-56 in the Class 4, District 1 semifinals, No. 2 Notre Dame came from behind to defeat top-seeded Dexter 81-78 on Friday night in front of an overflow crowd at Notre Dame High School.
Thursday night against Sikeston, Notre Dame dodged the Bulldogs' game-winning basket with 0.2 seconds left when Sikeston was called for going over the back.
On Friday, with the score tied at 76-76, Dexter's Preston Clark fouled Travis Siebert with 4.1 seconds remaining near the right elbow, giving the Bulldogs two free throws.
In apparent frustration, Dexter's Chris Hyten grabbed the ball and heaved it towards the goal across the court. The incident got Hyten a technical foul, giving Notre Dame two more free throws and possession of the ball.
Siebert made both his free throws and Wayne Essner sank 1-of-2 to give the Bulldogs a 79-76 lead.
Cory Beussink, who was fouled on the ensuing inbounds play, sank both his free throws to put the game out of reach at 81-76.
Dexter's Josh Miller hit a long shot to reach the final margin.
But the talk of the game was the technical foul.
Dexter head coach Eric Sitze said Hyten claimed he heard the buzzer sound.
"(Hyten) said he heard the buzzer and threw it at the backboard," said Sitze. "I didn't see him throw it. I don't know. Seconds are going off the clock and he heard a buzzer. That's what he said."
The whole incident overshadowed a remarkable comeback by Notre Dame, in which the Bulldogs trailed by as much as 15 in the third quarter and 12 points in the fourth quarter.
"When I looked up, I saw that Chris had the ball and I saw him sling it at the backboard," said Notre Dame head coach Darrin Scott. "I looked at (the official) and I could tell he was going to 'T' him. I know Chris was saying he thought the buzzer went off. I don't know. It's just one of those things."
It was a disappointing end for the Bearcats, who haven't won a district championship since 1976.
Dexter ends its season at 21-5.
The Bearcats had control for the majority of the game. Dexter held a 66-54 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Notre Dame began to steadily chip away at the lead, cutting it to seven, then six and then five.
"I thought there were a few times where we were on the verge of mentally quitting and giving up," said Scott. "All of a sudden in the fourth quarter we were guarding them better than we ever dreamed of guarding them. We forced some turnovers and we got some easy baskets. When we cut it to three of four, I thought we were going to win."
The Bearcats still held a seven-point lead with less than four minutes remaining but an Essner 3-pointer, two Siebert free throws and an inside basket by Beussink tied the game at 72-72 with 2:33 left.
It was the first time the score was tied since the first quarter.
Notre Dame took the lead on an Essner free throw, only to see Aaron Guethle get the lead back for Dexter on a nice dish from Willie Dooley.
Notre Dame reserve Travis Bruenderman then hit a free throw with 1:18 left to tie it. Bruenderman added an offensive putback to give the Bulldogs a 76-74 lead with 24 seconds remaining.
Dooley tied the score with a baseline jumper with 15 seconds left, setting up the Bulldogs' final play.
Notre Dame out-scored Dexter 27-13 in the fourth quarter.
"We just froze up in the second half," said Sitze. "You want something so bad that you get a little tentative. I thought we got tentative and we threw the ball away. These kids fought hard. It's just unfortunate that they have to end it like this."
Essner was on fire for Notre Dame canning seven 3-pointers en route to a game-high 30 points.
"He shot a very high percentage, he didn't miss hardly anything all night," said Sitze of Essner. "He had a great ballgame for them."
After falling behind 5-0 to start the game, Dexter was able to take a 21-20 lead after one quarter.
The Bearcats were able to build a double-digit lead midway through the second quarter and they maintained it heading into halftime, leading 45-34.
Notre Dame never got closer than seven points in the third quarter as they failed to make a dent, trailing 65-54 heading into the final frame.
But foul problems took its toll on the Bearcats in the fourth quarter.
Three Dexter players ended up fouling out, including Derek Demaree, who finished with a team-high 21 points.
Dexter committed 27 fouls to the Bulldogs' 19.
Notre Dame (20-7) took full advantage, hitting 28-of-36 from the line while the Bearcats, normally an outstanding free throw shooting team, made just 10-of-19.
Included in Dexter's total were back-to-back misses on one-and-one situations when the score was tied with less than 1:30 left in the game.
Dexter has now lost in the district finals four times in the last five years, including the last three.
Three of those four times, Dexter lost to the district host school: Doniphan in 1999, NMCC in 2001 and Notre Dame on Friday.
"Home-court advantage, I'll tell you what, this is three times we've lost the championship on the home floor," said Sitze. "I wish we'd get something done about a neutral place to play. It was our turn on the old rotation before the state started switching everything around."
Scott felt having the district in his home gym played a large role in his team's championship.
"Obviously it helped us in both games being on our home floor," said Scott. "That's no question about that. It helped having the fans. But tonight I think Dexter had as many fans as we did."
Hyten finished with 18 points for Dexter in his final game.
"Chris is the toughest competitor I've ever coached," said Sitze. "He's gonna feel this pretty hard. He's a great kid and he's worked hard for me since seventh grade. It's just a basketball game. He's got a lot of things good left out there for him."
Josh Miller added 10 points for the Bearcats.
Siebert had 18 points for the Bulldogs. Tyler Cuba added 13 points and Beussink had 12 points.
Notre Dame will play against DeSoto on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Mineral Area Community College in a Class 4 Sectional game.