In a game in which no team deserved to lose, a 3-point attempt by junior Haylee Finch of Dexter was just short and the Lady Cats survived to move on to the sectional round of the playoffs.
Fredericktown led 48-43 late in the fourth quarter until Taylor Nelson of the Lady Bearcats hit a 3-pointer to close the gap to 48-46 with 22 seconds remaining in the contest.
Sophomore Courtney Kemp of Fredericktown was fouled by Dexter and went to the line for a 1-and-1 on the Lady Cats next possession. Kemp missed the front end and the Lady Bearcats secured the rebound.
On the ensuing possession for Dexter, Molly Burleson had a look at a 15-
Nelson and a host of Lady Cat rebounders fought hard for the possession and the officials called for a jump ball; possession arrow pointed in favor of the Lady Bearcats with 4.9 seconds remaining in the ball game.
Dexter inbounded the ball and found Nelson open at the top of the key. Nelson dribbled to her right and was immediately surrounded by a double-
team of Fredericktown defenders. Nelson calmly found an open Finch in the right corner.
Finch received the pass from Nelson and shot a 20-foot jump shot beyond the 3-point line. The stroke was smooth; rotation seamless, but the connection for the win was just short. The Lady Cats survived.
Fredericktown started out the game in a 2-3 zone and went often to their signature 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. The Lady Cats forced Dexter to commit five turnovers in the first quarter, as Fredericktown got a big lift from their bench from 5-foot-9 junior Nicki Settlemoir, who had four points in the quarter.
Nelson played like a senior who did not want to quit playing and hit two 3-
pointers in the first quarter to keep Dexter close. After one quarter of action, Fredericktown led 12-8.
At the start of the second quarter, Dexter seemed a bit tentative against the trap of Fredericktown. The Lady Cats took advantage and had a 17-10 lead after a steal by Kemp, who made a pass ahead the other way for an assist to Amy Hendrix, who scored the lay-in.
Dexter had their chances with several point blank shots in the post in the first half. Junior Betsy Royer of Fredericktown, a 6-0 forward, had something to do with the misses, as she proved to be a force in the paint on the defensive end in the semifinal game against Notre Dame. Royer had 11 blocks against the Lady Bulldogs and Dexter was aware she was around the goal.
"Our trap created some easy baskets for us in the first half," said Fredericktown head coach Lonny Sheldon. "While our trap was forcing turnovers, Dexter just killed us on the boards in the first. I think (Betsy) Royer altered some shots tonight and she is such a force down low for us. She makes a big difference down in the low post."
Dexter closed the gap to 17-14 after Bailey Stanley hit a shot and Nelson followed with an offensive rebound and putback with four minutes to play in the first half.
Fredericktown went on a 5-0 run and led 24-16 with two minutes to play in the half. Dexter responded with three points on one possession, when Natalie Hayes hit 1-of-2 free throws and on the missed second attempt, Nelson secured the offensive rebound and got the offensive put back for two points, to cut the game to 24-19 with one minute to play.
The Lady Cats scored four points in the final minute, compared to two points for Dexter. At the break, Fredericktown led the Lady Bearcats 28-21.
"We played well in the first quarter," said Miller, "but I believe the momentum shifted once they started to put some pressure on us. We let some of their pressure get to us. The girls didn't react as well as I would like against the press."
Nelson led Dexter in the first half with 10 points and eight rebounds (five offensive). Bailey Stanley, a 5-11 junior, had four points and five rebounds (four offensive) at the break for the Lady Bearcats.
Kemp was a stat-stuffer in the first half for Fredericktown with eight points, five steals, four rebounds and three assists. Settlemoir and 6-0 senior Deidre Hughes each had six points at the half for the Lady Cats.
With Dexter having issues scoring in the paint against the taller Lady Cats, the Lady Bearcats found a spark in 5-5 junior Molly Burleson. Trailing 30-23 early in the third quarter, Burleson hit back-to-back 3-pointers for Dexter to close the gap to 30-29 with five minutes to play in the quarter.
The 3's by Burleson seemed to fire up the Lady Bearcats and a new defensive scheme provided some benefits. After playing much of the game in a man defense, Dexter switched to a 2-3 zone which seemed to confuse the Lady Cats.
Dexter forced Fredericktown to commit six turnovers in the third and after Nelson hit two free throws with 4:15 in the quarter, Dexter led 31-30.
Fredericktown briefly took back the lead at 32-31, but Burleson provided some magic with her third 3-pointer of the third and Dexter led 34-32 with 3:40 to play in the quarter. The Lady Cats scored a late bucket and heading into the fourth quarter, the game was tied at 34 points.
"Molly kept us in the game," said Miller. "We have been working with Molly to let her be more comfortable shooting the basketball. Sometimes she lacks the confidence to take a shot, but tonight she came up big for us."
Kemp got Fredericktown going in the fourth by hitting a 3-pointer and putting the Lady Cats up 37-34 with 6:42 to play. Kemp kept the pressure on Dexter and came up with a steal and conversion to push the lead to five, 39
-34 with six minutes to go in the contest.
Fredericktown scored another basket and had a 7-0 run to start the fourth and led 41-34 at 5:30.
Finch broke the run with a 12-foot jump shot and closed the gap back to five points, 41-36 with four minutes to play.
Trailing 43-38, Burleson hit her fourth 3-pointer of the game at 2:30 of the fourth quarter and Dexter was down 43-41.
Sophomore Johnna Tinnin, a 5-10 forward, grabbed an offensive rebound for Fredericktown and with the put back, the Lady Cats led 45-41. On the next offensive possession for Dexter, Amanda Hendrix garnered a steal and found Kemp ahead for a easy layup, to put Fredericktown up 47-41.
Once again, Finch ended the run of Fredericktown with a 15-footer to close the game to 47-43 with 1:54 to play in the fourth. Dexter played tough down the stretch and showed tremendous heart just to get the opportunity for a 3-
point shot at the buzzer.
"Our girls didn't give up tonight," said Miller. "We just let the game get away from us early in the fourth. I have to commend the way the girls stayed focused and got back into the game."
Kemp led Fredericktown with 17 points, seven steals, five rebounds and three assists. Hughes ended the night with 12 points and four rebounds, while Royer finished with six points, three rebounds and three blocks.
Nelson ended her high school basketball career in style with 17 points and 13 rebounds (eight offensive). Burleson had her four 3-pointers for 12 points. Finch had a solid game off the bench with eight points and six rebounds (three offensive), while Hayes led the team in her final game with four assists.
Dexter owned the boards with a 34-20 rebounding advantage and had 20 offensive rebounds, compared to nine for Fredericktown. Both teams dished out 10 assists, but Fredericktown had more steals as a team, 9-4 over Dexter. The Lady Bearcats finished with 18 turnovers, while Fredericktown had 13 turnovers as a team.
"It is going to be tough to lose our seniors, they have meant so much to this program," said Miller, "but we have some underclassmen coming back, who I hope this feeling of losing at this point stays with them."