Thursday night top-seeded Notre Dame steamrolled No. 5 Dexter 69-29 while second-seeded Sikeston breezed by No. 3 Fredericktown 57-26 in the Class 4, District 1 Tournament at the Sikeston Field House.
Sikeston (17-8) will meet Notre Dame (23-4) in the championship game at 7:30 p.m. immediately following the girls championship between Notre Dame and Fredericktown.
It will be the fourth time in five years the two teams have met in the district tournament. Notre Dame won the first two meetings in 2003 and 2005 while Sikeston captured the title last season.
All three games were decided by four points or less.
"It's just a great rivalry that's started the past four or five years," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "We've had a lot of battles with them. Normally the games come down to a one or two-point game."
Sikeston raced out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back on the way to its seventh straight "turbo clock" victory.
The Bulldog defense was as sharp as it had been all season as Fredericktown had trouble even getting shots off for most of the night.
The Blackcats (18-10), who hung 62 points on the Bulldogs in early January, managed just 14 points heading into the fourth quarter Thursday night.
After the game, Fredericktown head coach Brett Reutzel, who had built conference and district champion teams at Cape Central prior to his stint with the Blackcats, said he had no answers for the swarming Bulldog defense.
"If you know what we could do you can tell me so I can learn for next year," said Reutzel. "When there's that much pressure and they're quicker than you are, it's just tough. We tried everything that we knew to try. We went to our backdoor offenses. We tried everything, other than holding the ball, and I didn't think we had to do that with this particular team."
After Sikeston's 12-0 start, Fredericktown cut the lead to 12-4, but they wouldn't get any closer as the Bulldogs led 16-6 after one quarter.
Sikeston quickly pushed the lead to double-figures in the second quarter and extended it to 27-10 by halftime.
Sikeston's Julian Beard scored 14 of his game-high 18 points in the first half. He also had three steals.
"I thought we came out with good intensity," said Holifield. "Our players were working hard. (Reutzel) does such a great job offensively with their sets and we spent a lot of time on what they try to do. I thought what we've been working on carried over tonight.
"We have a lot of respect for coach Reutzel and his program and we knew they would come in prepared to play. Fortunately things went our way and defensively I thought we did a good job."
The Bulldogs sealed the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Blackcats 13-4 in the period to lead 40-14 heading into the final frame.
The Bulldogs put the mercy rule on about midway through the quarter and coasted the rest of the way.
Bulldog sophomore Michael Porter added 14 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks. Junior Matt Ritch followed up with 11 points. Senior Ray Rodgers only had one point, but he finished with a team-high four assists with three steals.
"I didn't think our defense was that bad, but their defense was so much better than ours," said Reutzel. "They created turnovers and scored some points, but I was pleased with our halfcourt defense. Ours was to try to contain and there's was, 'we're coming after you.'
"They're just going to keep getting better. It's a good team with a lot of kids that love the game. It's that time of the year and they're ready to go."
Holifield was quick to point out the defensive work by senior Blake Taylor on Fredericktown sharp-shooter Dustin Bess.
Bess finished with three points, hitting his only shot on a long 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter.
"I thought Blake was just tremendous defensively," said Holifield. "He did a great job on Bess, who I think is as good a shooter as anybody we've seen all year when he's set. Blake really did a good job of taking him away and getting through the screens. Matt Ritch came off the bench and played real well. He played with a lot of confidence and he's got his step back after being sick for a large portion of the season."
Fredericktown was led by 6-foot-5 junior Mike Crowell with 10 points. Eli Skaggs, a 6-4 junior, added seven points.
But as strong as Sikeston was on defense, they struggled in the rebounding department (23 rebounds) and also had a poor night from the charity stripe (7-17, 41 percent).
"We didn't do a good job of blocking out and rebounding tonight and that's an area that we'll have to emphasize," said Holifield.
Sikeston was 23-40 from the field (58 percent) and were 4-6 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs also had 12 assists compared to just eight turnovers.
Now Sikeston will set its sights on Notre Dame, a team that defeated the Bulldogs 86-75 back in December.
"They played great when we played them here in December and we did not play very well," said Holifield. "We didn't have a lot of energy and our kids were embarrassed by that. Hopefully we'll be able to step up and play much better. It will be a great atmosphere again. Our kids have been in a lot of big games in front of some great atmospheres and huge crowds. It should be fun. This is why you work extremely hard to get to this point in the season. I know both teams are looking forward to it. Just like last year, I don't think the fans will be disappointed. Both teams will compete and play as hard as they possibly can."
Dexter had the game deadlocked at 4-4, but it was all downhill from there as Notre Dame, ranked third in Class 4, finished the quarter with an 18-2 run to lead 22-6.
The Bearcats couldn't put up much of a fight from that point, falling behind 44-14 at halftime and 59-21 heading into the fourth quarter where the mercy clock ran.
"They showed why they are ranked third in the state," said Dexter coach Chris Trimmer. "They were head and shoulders better than we were. They do everything correctly. Defensively, they read what you're doing and move. They are very talented and very athletic kids, and coach (Paul) Hale does a wonderful job with them. They are a tremendous basketball team."
Trimmer stuck with the full-court press that caused Perryville so much trouble in the first round of the district tournament. But it wasn't near as effective against Notre Dame.
"We're a pressing team, because we are a little challenged offensively and we're not really good shooters," said Trimmer. "Don't misunderstand me, our kids work as hard as anybody. We just lack some offensive shooting skills, so we have to get some points off pressure, steals and layups in transition. Notre Dame's got great guards and they handle the pressure extremely well."
Notre Dame junior Ryan Willen led all scorers with 17 points. Austin Greer added 14 points and Ty Williams chipped in with 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
Dexter was led by Kevin Hart's six points. Bobby Rawson, Derrik Chamberlain and Drew Kelly each had five points.
The Bearcats finished 12-15 in Trimmer's first year as head coach, an improvement from last year's 10-16 mark.
"I've been very blessed with a whole group that says 'yes, sir' and 'no, sir' and does whatever I ask, with no questions asked," said Trimmer. "And that is sometimes hard to find this day and age. We might have only won 12 games this year, but this is one team that I've had more fun coaching and had more fun working with than a lot of teams I've coached in the past. I never had to worry about morale in practice, and never had to worry about discipline problems. It's tough to get that for five months, especially when you're 12-15. When you're 25-3, it's a little bit easier to do that. But that's why they were such a pleasure to work with."