With both teams slated to meet only once during the regular season, a favorable seed in the Class 4, District 1 Tournament was at stake.
Chalk up Round 1 to Sikeston, which snapped a four-game losing streak to the Bearcats with a 68-67 win in the Bulldogs' home opener at the Field House.
It's the Bulldogs' first win against Dexter since January of 1999.
The win also marks Sikeston's first victory of the season after losing its first two games to out of state foes Blytheville (Ark.) and Marion (Ill.), the latter coming in double overtime.
Dexter, ranked fourth in the Southeast Missouri Regional Top 15 poll, falls to 0-2 on the season.
The Bulldogs, ranked fifth in the poll, improved to 1-2.
Sikeston, which led by as much as 13 in the third quarter, had trouble closing the game out from the free throw line. The game climaxed when Sikeston's Lawrence Davis missed two free throws with seven seconds left and the Bulldogs leading 68-67.
Preston Clark rebounded the miss and quickly pushed the ball up the floor where he found Chris Hyten in the left corner. Two Bulldog defenders quickly converged on Hyten, forcing him to penetrate. He lofted a running 15-footer from the baseline but it rimmed off as time expired.
"Chris had a real good look at it," said Dexter head coach Eric Sitze. "Maybe if he went up with a little more balance he would've hit it."
Hyten said it's a shot that he normally makes.
"It was a good look," said Hyten. "I should have hit it. Any other time, I'm going to hit it."
The game got so intense at the moment, that Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield couldn't bear to watch as he walked in the opposite direction.
"It's almost comical because in five years we've been in situations where every game we play is one or two points," said Holifield. "It's gut-wrenching sometimes. We didn't put the game away and I was a little bit frustrated at that time. But it worked out well for us. I was really proud of our players."
Sikeston's Lontas McClinton led all scorers with 23 points, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter. He also had 10 rebounds, four steals and two blocked shots.
"McClinton hurt us tonight, but you knew he was going to -- he hurts a lot of people," said Sitze. "You've just got to find different ways to guard him. We'll look at that on tape and see if we can find a different way to do something against him next time. He's just a great athlete. He jumps 20 feet in the air and it's hard to guard that. He's just a good player."
Dexter led only once in the game at 4-2 as the Bulldogs built an early 21-11 lead after one quarter of play.
Sitze knew Sikeston was going to be a handful in their home opener.
"That's the home-court advantage," said Sitze. "You're coming into a hostile environment, they were fired up, they had lost two games, one in double overtime. They were ready to play tonight."
Although the Bearcats made several runs, the Bulldogs were able to maintain at least a two-point lead the rest of the game until the final sequence.
Getting the early lead was the key to the game according to Holifield.
"It was very important -- we have to establish that," he said. "That's how we have to play the game. We can't play from behind. We've got to maintain a lead and stay ahead of people."
Sikeston led 33-27 at the half.
Dexter got as close as 33-31 on a basket by Willie Dooley, but the Bulldogs responded with a 12-1 run, capped by Freddie Wiggins' conventional 3-point play, to open up a 45-32 lead with 2:40 left in the third quarter.
Dexter was still able to cut the lead to 47-38 by the end of the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Sikeston appeared ready to pull away as they opened up a 58-49 lead with 4:24 left in the game.
But the Bearcats fought back, eventually cutting the lead to 60-58 on Hyten's 3-pointer with 2:50 left.
Things didn't look good for Sikeston as the Bearcats had the lead down to 62-61 and had possession of the ball with a little over a minute remaining.
But McClinton came up big, stealing the ball and finishing the break with a slam dunk to give Sikeston a 64-61 lead with 1:02 left.
Over the final minute the two teams traded free throws, with sophomore Marcus McCaster hitting four in a row to keep the lead at three.
It was a much-needed lift as the rest of the team made just 5-of-13 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Holifield said he was confident with the youngster on the line.
"That's why he's playing, because we know he is an outstanding shooter," said Holifield. "If he's set, just like the other night at Marion when he knocked down a huge 3 in a double overtime game, he's an outstanding shooter. At the free throw line I have a lot of confidence in him."
Dexter scored its last points when Clark got a putback with 11 seconds remaining. The Bearcats fouled Davis on the inbounds, setting up the final sequence.
"We had the last look, that's what you want, the last look," said Sitze.
Sikeston point guard Lavar Morgan scored 18 points with eight assists and five rebounds before fouling out with 52 seconds left.
"Those are the two," said Sitze of Morgan and McClinton. "They had 51 (points) the other night against Marion. They're good athletes. We're going to have to find a way to control them next time."
Sikeston also got big games out of seniors Michael Colon and Ben Anderson. Colon finished with a double-double, scoring 10 points with 10 rebounds and three assists.
Anderson had six points, four rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals.
Clark led Dexter with 22 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. Hyten added 21 points.
Dexter, which scored 18 points in the final four minutes, connected on 10-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"They're going to battle, they're used to winning," said Holifield. "They've won the last three or four years. They've got that winning tradition, they're not going to quit, they're not going to die. We knew it was going to be very difficult down the stretch."
Sikeston played DeSoto on Saturday. Results will be in Monday's edition. The fourth-seeded Bulldogs play No. 5-seeded NMCC tomorrow at 7 p.m. in the Sikeston Invitational.
Dexter plays at Notre Dame on Tuesday with junior varsity starting at 6 p.m.
The Sikeston jayvee team dropped its third straight game, falling to Dexter 55-38. Sikeston (3-3) led 24-19 at the half but fell apart in the third quarter as Dexter out-scored them 25-4.
Sikeston was led by Josh Alvarado's 10 points. Brandon Williams and Felante Larry each added six points.
Dexter was led by Chris Guethle's 16 points and Anthony Elfrink's 12 points.