DEXTER -- Dexter played with the heart of a champion at home Tuesday night, but the Bearcats couldn't overcome foul troubles and a tall, talented Charleston Bluejays team, falling 67-63 in the season opener.
"I'm proud of our kids," said Dexter coach Eric Sitze after the hard fought game. "Of course we would have liked to get the win. But I didn't know what to expect out of us tonight.
"But after I've seen us play, I think we have a good chance to win a lot of games this year. I like our team."
Preston Clark hit a 15-foot jumper with 2:21 remaining to give Dexter a 63-62 lead. Clark's basket would be the last for the 'Cats as back-to-back turnovers and a lane violation in the final two minutes thwarted any chance Dexter had.
Buckets by Ashton Farmer and Marcus Biles, who finished with 16 points, and a free throw late by Trentez Lane sealed the 67-63 win for Charleston.
"At halftime I was concerned about us not coming out and playing the second half like we did in the New Madrid games last year," Sitze commented. "Last year we played New Madrid good for a half, both games, but we didn't finish it up. We came out in the second half, we didn't give up, we kept battling and we gave them all they wanted tonight. They've had two good games at the Riverbend (Tournament), two tough competitive games, so I'm not disappointed with our kids. I thought they played well. Charleston is a great basketball team and they're going to win a lot of games this year."
Dexter charged out of the gates to open the game, surging to a 8-0 lead behind the scoring of Drew Wethington. Wethington drove the lane for the games first two points then put back an offensive rebound and was fouled in the process.
Dexter trailed by three at 56-53 at the start of the fourth quarter, but battled back to claim the lead at 59-58 on a jumper by Chris Hyten with six minutes showing on the clock. Hyten finished with a team high 22 points on the night.
The 'Cats increased the lead to 61-58 on two free throws by Derek Demaree with 5:21 to play before Farmer slammed home a two-handed dunk on a break away to pull the visitors to 61-60.
With 4:50 to play, Dexter's Willie Dooley fouled out, trying to draw a charge on Farmer under the basket. Dooley scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half. His departure from the game seemed to turn the tide in favor of the Bluejays.
Farmer, who led all players with 24 points, hit the second of his two free throw attempts after being fouled by Dooley, to tie the score at 61-61.
Dexter will be in action Friday when the Bearcats travel to Sikeston to take on the Bulldogs.