NEW MADRID - The top-ranked New Madrid County Central Eagles added another impressive win to their resume with a 65-53 victory over the Class 3A No. 5 ranked Dexter Bearcats on Thursday at NMCC High School.
The Bearcats kept it close for a half, but the Eagles pulled away in the second half, outscoring Dexter 36-24.
"I was tickled to get the win," said NMCC head coach Joby Holland. "I thought our kids picked the defensive intensity up a little bit. We pushed the ball a little bit better in the second half. We didn't have quite the intensity in the first half but a lot of that was due to the things Dexter did against us. This ought to put us in good shape for the district tournament."
With the win, NMCC (17-3) probably locked up the top seed in the 3A District 1 Tournament at Sikeston. Dexter (17-3) is looking at either a two or three seed in the tournament.
The Bearcats came out in the first quarter looking sharp, taking a 20-14 lead at the end of the period.
NMCC battled back to tie the score by halftime at 29-29.
The Eagles started the second half with five quick points to lead 34-29 and they never trailed after that. The Bearcats got as close as three in the third quarter but couldn't get any closer.
"They hit their shots in the second half and we didn't," said Dexter head coach Eric Sitze. (Chris) Carr had some easy looks right underneath the basket and missed some of those. We didn't hit our 3s as good in the second half. I thought we did what we had to do in this place to win but we just didn't hit the shots. If we hit the shots then it could be a different ending."
The turnover department was even at 17 apiece, but the Bearcats had a slight edge on the boards, 24-23.
"They attacked the game real hard," said Holland. "We didn't match their aggressiveness and intensity on the boards which disappointed me. But a lot of that was due to Dexter being in the right place and doing the right things."
NMCC continued to extend the lead in the fourth quarter, leading by as much as 17 in the final frame.
"(The third quarter) was big," said Holland. "We got to playing our game a little bit more. Our halfcourt defense was a little bit better and we played more to our tempo. That was a big key. I thought we were a little timid against their 2-3 (zone in the first half). We passed the ball a little too much instead of attacking it. We just weren't real aggressive in the first half."
NMCC was once again led by senior all-stater Dereke Tipler with a game-high 20 points. Brian Murph and Ronland Ranson both chipped in 10 points.
Tipler scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
"Tipler's always going to come through in the end," said Sitze. "They're not 3A state champions two years in a row for nothing. They've got some great players on that team and if you make mistakes, they're going to capitalize. I thought we did a good job defensively. I didn't think we got back well and stop their transition buckets good enough."
Dexter was led by Chad Gill's 15 points and Kyle Christian's 12. Carr followed up with 10 points.
NMCC will host Scott County Central tonight at 6 p.m. Dexter will host Advance tonight at 6 p.m.
"We have a tough district tournament, Kennett's going to be good and Sikeston's going to be good, so if we do get another chance (NMCC) we're going to have to beat a good team to get there," said Sitze.