Both Dexter and Richland entered the game with similar records, and with starting center Drew Satterfield absent with the flu for the Bearcats, fans were anticipating a classic Stoddard County Activities Association (SCAA) shutout.
In the end, Richland was shooting blanks and it was the Bearcats that were on the mark for a 69-37 win Tuesday night on the Rebels' homecourt.
Dexter (8-12, 4-1)) got 21 points from Eric Rinehart and used fullcourt pressure to disrupt Richland's attack. A combination of Dexter's 2-2-1 press and matchup zone, coupled with Richland's (6-11, 0-4) poor shooting, limited the Rebels to just ten points in each of the first three quarters, seven in the final frame.
"Dexter put a lot of pressure on us," Richland coach Jeff Jennewein said after the disappointing loss. "They (Dexter) are a good ball club. They came out and played hard and kept the pressure on us.
"We did fine with their man-to-man, but when they went to that 2-2-1 press and the match-up zone it hurt us," he continued. "It's frustrating as a coach because you go over it. We went over their match-up, we watched film of it for the last three days. We knew what was coming but they out executed us. And that's what good teams do. Yes, we weren't the same team tonight, but Dexter had a lot to do with that."
"I know the kids really wanted this game," Jennewein added. "They came in ready to go, but when we got down we just didn't respond to it (playing from behind). When we got down, we kind of folded and they (Dexter) kept playing hard."
Dexter coach Eric Sitze used 11 players, eight in the first half, as the 'Cats rotated a steady flow of players into the game. Of the 11 players, eight scored.
Junior Derrik Chamberlain finished with 13, while senior Aaron Jackson continued his string of double-figure games with 10.
"Richland didn't shoot the ball very well tonight, and I know how that is," Sitze said. "It's hard to get energy when you don't shoot the ball very good.
"But I thought our kids played hard tonight," he continued. "We kept some fresh bodies in there tonight and kept the pressure on them and forced some turnovers and got some easy baskets.
"Some teams we can press a little better than others when we know we can wear them down a little bit," Sitze added. "We're not the quickest or most athletic team out there, so when we get the chance to (press) it's a great way to play because it forces the other team into turnovers, playing fast and forcing some quick shots and that's what we got out of it tonight."
Richland led early in the first half, but a late steal by Logan Swindle (three points) resulted in a basket by Andrew Stuever (nine points) that gave Dexter a 12-10 lead at the end of the first. Dexter's pressure and fresh bodies began reap benefits in the second as the 'Cats raced to a 22-10 advantage and a 34-20 half-time lead. Rinehart had 11 of his game-high 21 in the second.
Dexter opened the third on a 6-0 run before two free throws by Cameron Whittaker (six points) halted the Rebels' skid, 42-24. Another 10-0 run by Dexter was capped by a 3-pointer from sophomore David Hessling and put Dexter in firm control of the game, 52-24, with just over two minutes remaining in the third.
Richland was led offensively by Jackie Smith, who was a force on the offensive boards with 11 points. Tommy Harlen and Matt Ritch each had eight points in the loss.
"They came out and took us out of our game and I congratulate them," Jennewein stated. "They came into our place - and I thought we had a good chance of beating them - but they came out and played harder than us."
In the junior varsity game, Dexter prevailed, 55-19.