PORTAGEVILLE - The Portageville Bulldogs hosted the Dexter Bearcats on Thursday in a battle of state-ranked teams.
The 8th ranked Class 2A Bulldogs got a measure of revenge on the Class 3A No. 8-ranked Bearcats with a 68-54 win, avenging a loss in the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament championship game last month.
Portageville's J.T. Williams was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring a game-high 33 points with 11 rebounds, while recording several assists and steals.
The Bulldogs (11-2) jumped on Dexter from the start, leading 7-0, and they never trailed in the game.
Dexter head coach Eric Sitze sensed his players weren't mentally prepared to play before the game started.
"I was looking in the kids' faces before the game and they didn't have any energy, they weren't talking, they didn't warm up hard," said Sitze. "You can't come into a place like Portageville and show up the way we did and expect to win the game."
The Bearcats (11-2) came out running the same man-to-man defense that was so successful in the Bloomfield Tournament, but this time the Bulldogs were ready with a new offense.
"Actually we had (the offense) when we first played them, but we had just put it in and the kids weren't accustomed to running it," said Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell. "But more than that, I think it was the focus of our kids. We stayed patient and didn't get in a hurry."
Maybe even more impressive was the Bulldogs' defense on the high-powered Dexter offense.
Bearcat center Chris Carr was limited to nine points and could only seem to get touches at the top of the key.
"It was the double-team before he caught it, they would anticipate the pass and the guy from the weak side would knock the pass away," said Sitze. "We were trying to force it in there and we weren't patient enough on offense."
The closest Dexter came to the Bulldogs was two points in the first quarter. Portageville led 18-10 after one quarter and 34-23 at halftime.
Things got even worse for Dexter in the third quarter as the Bulldogs extended the lead to 21 points behind some hot 3-point shooting by Williams, Aaron Bidewell and Eric Booker.
"The big thing for them was that they shot the ball so much better than last time," said Sitze. "It seemed like they had more open looks and every time they had one they knocked it down tonight."
Four consecutive free throws by Chad Gill closed the gap to 52-35 at the end of three but it was too much to overcome. Dexter made a small run in the fourth with a halfcourt trap and got as close as 56-46, but couldn't get any closer.
The Bulldogs controlled the boards, but they controlled the tempo. On the game's first possession, the Bulldogs ran a minute off the clock before scoring. That seemed to be the trend for the rest of the game.
"We can't run that high-powered offense right now," said Bidewell. "Our kids like to slow it down and really try to run our stuff."
Dexter was led by Gill's 17 points and Matt Christian's 12. No other Bearcat reached double figures. Point guard Chris Hyten was plagued with foul problems most of the night and was held to three points.
"They controlled everything tonight -- they just outplayed us," said Sitze. "The kids just didn't come to play tonight. You can't beat a good basketball team playing flat like we are."
Portageville's only other double figure scorer was Bidewell with 12, but the rest of the lineup contributed well in other areas, especially rebounding.
"We didn't do anything more special than what we normally do, the kids just responded different," said Coach Bidewell. "We start five seniors and they showed a lot of senior leadership. The name of the game is in that paint and every time that ball was shot we had arms flying (getting rebounds). That's not coaching, that's just want-to."
The Bulldogs will play at Bootheel Conference foe South Pemiscot tonight while Dexter will host Stoddard County rival Bernie.