BLOOMFIELD - With a 64-50 victory against Portageville, the Dexter Bearcats became the first team ever to win the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament four consecutive years.
It also marks Dexter's sixth Bloomfield championship overall, giving them one more than Malden for the most ever.
"It feels pretty good -- it's a relief that's for sure," said first year Dexter head coach Eric Sitze. "We kind of used it as motivation, but there is still that pressure to try to get it done. Not just for us, but for the three years before us with Coach (Paul) Hale and all those kids that played in those three tournaments. It's a big relief to be able to do it for them all."
The Bearcats won the 45th annual tournament with defense and rebounding. Employing an aggressive man to man defense, Dexter didn't allow hardly any open looks for the Bulldogs.
"They kind of surprised me -- I really wasn't expecting a man to man," admitted Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell, coaching in his seventh BCT championship game. I thought they'd try to press us a little bit and maybe zone us and that's what we prepared for. But they came out and got after us. We didn't handle their pressure very well."
The Bulldogs (8-2) seemed to be outmatched from the start. Portageville never led in the game, although they did manage to cut an early 10-point deficit to 27-24 by halftime.
That's when the Bearcats decided it was time to go to 6-foot-7 standout Chris Carr, who managed just four points by the half.
"At halftime we said that we were going to win or lose by going to Carr," said Sitze. "It paid off. I think in the first half we were a little impatient, we forced some shots, we turned the ball over too much. We just tried to slow it down in the second half and make sure we got it to him."
And that's what they did. Carr scored on Dexter's first two possessions of the second half and the tone was set for the rest of the game.
The Bearcats built a double digit lead three minutes into the third quarter and never lost it.
Carr scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the third quarter. Chris Hyten and Chad Gill each had 14 points for Dexter.
Portageville still had hope when Jordan French made a basket at the third quarter horn to cut the lead to 46-34.
But the Bulldogs never got closer than 12 as the Bearcats extended the lead to 19 in the fourth quarter.
"I've got to give a lot of credit to Dexter," said Bidewell. "They came out after the overtime win (Friday night against Twin Rivers) and their legs were fresh tonight. Their rebounding was excellent tonight. We'd come down and get one shot and then they'd take advantage of us not getting back. They had a complete game. We were just undermanned tonight."
Dexter was able to seal the game hitting 8-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter. They hit 19-of-25 for the game.
The Bulldogs' two leading scorers Eric Booker and J.T. Williams were held in check for most of the night. Booker finished with seven points while Williams scored 11, with eight coming in the fourth quarter when the game was virtually wrapped up.
"When they cover you like that, and then you do get an open shot, you tend to rush it," said Bidewell. "The Carr kid with his size naturally is automatic intimidation because you have to put a little more arch on your shot or be a little quicker. And they weren't falling."
Sitze said the man to man defense, which is different from the Dexter staple matchup zone press defense, is something his team will continue to do.
"We're athletic and we're decently quick," said Sitze. "We're just trying to show help a lot and recover. If they're going to beat us then they need to beat us from the outside. We did a good job of taking away the penetration and making them shoot the three."
The Bulldogs have now reached the finals three times in the last five years but they still haven't won the tournament since 1992.
But Bidewell isn't too disappointed.
"I'm proud of our kids getting to the finals," said Bidewell. "We really didn't anticipate getting there in my opinion even though I think I've got some good kids. There are just some areas we haven't been able to go over. If we can cut down on some of the confusion and let them get out there and do what they do best then we might be better in the end."
Dexter's Carr and Hyten made the all-tournament team. Also making the team were Portageville's Booker and Williams.
Twin Rivers 84, East Carter County 50 (third place)
The seventh-seeded East Carter County Redbirds kept it interesting for a quarter but it was all downhill from there.
Leading 24-20, Twin Rivers outscored East Carter 60-30 the final three quarters.
Twin Rivers was led by all-tournament performer Steve Deken and Robby Moore with 15 points each. Scott Forest, another all-tournament player, scored 14 and Seth McBroom had 13 for the Royals.
Joey Evans led the Redbirds with 12 points.
The second-seeded Kennett kept the tournament from being a total disappointment by taking home the fifth place trophy with a convincing win over No. 12 Puxico.
Kennett was never threatened, leading 29-21 at halftime and putting the game away in the third quarter with a 50-32 lead.
Kennett was led by Julius Taylor with 19 points and Tyree Goolsby with 18. Dustin Pritchett followed up with 13 and Tishaun Carter had 11.
Puxico was led by all-tournament player Derek Binford with 12 points.
Pritchett and Taylor also made the all-tournament team.
The fifth-seeded Bernie Mules, after a disappointing loss to Puxico in the first round, rolled through the consolation bracket to win the championship against Van Buren.
The Mules dominated from the start, leading 19-9 after one quarter and 37-21 at halftime. They still led 58-34 entering the fourth quarter before the Bulldogs made it more respectable towards the end.
Bernie was led by all-tournament performer Marcus Johnson with 18 points. Travis Blanchard added 16 and Robert Johnson had 14.
Van Buren was led by Jeremy Chadwell with 15 points.
Also making the all-tournament team was Richland's Sherome Cole and Doniphan's Danny Kellas.