Both games were exciting, down-to-the-affairs that had the crowds on the edge of their seats.
In the first semifinal game of the night, No. 1 seed Fredericktown Lady Cats had to battle back late in the fourth quarter to defeat the fourth seeded Perryville Lady Pirates, 46-44.
The No. 2 seed Notre Dame Lady Bulldogs held off a tough third seeded Dexter Lady Bearcats squad, 52-44, in the nightcap.
Fredericktown and Notre Dame will meet in the finals on Friday at 6 p.m.
Notre Dame defeated Dexter for a third time this season and the third win came at a crucial time in the Class 4, District 1 semifinals.
Dexter (21-6) started out of the gates with solid defense against the Notre Dame Lady Bulldogs and controlled the tempo in the first quarter.
Both squads seemed to be a little hesitant on offense, as the two combined to score five points in the first. The Lady Bearcats used a full-court press that slowed the Lady Bulldogs and forced five turnovers.
"Our girls were nervous and tense in the first quarter," said Dexter head coach Gavin Miller. "We had a game plan coming into the game to keep changing our defensive looks against Notre Dame and it worked early. We just didn't take advantage. We missed too many lay-ups and you can't do that against a team like Notre Dame."
The first points of the first quarter were scored by Dexter with 4:20 left on the game clock. Notre Dame didn't score until Kristain Burger scored a lay-in with five seconds left in the quarter. Dexter led 3-2 after one quarter.
"We have played some tough games this year and this is the first game that I thought our girls came out nervous," said Notre Dame head coach Jerry Grim. "It is tough playing a team a third time in one season. We didn't use our heads early against their press. We seem to panic at times. Dexter has a heck of a team and it was a battle."
Burger was swarmed all game in the paint by Dexter's changing defenses. With 5-foot-11 Burger being hounded inside, sophomore Alex Fowler stepped up for the Lady Bulldogs. Notre Dame went on a 9-0 run fueled by Fowler who hit two 3-pointers and had eight points in the run. Dexter trailed 15-9 with three minutes to play in the first half.
Senior Haylee Finch responded for the Lady Bearcats with two big 3's of her own late in the second quarter. Dexter outscored Notre Dame 8-2 in the final three minutes of the quarter to force a 17-17 tie heading into halftime.
Notre Dame came out of the locker room with renewed intensity to start the second half. Midway through the third quarter, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 13-3 run to take a 31-20 lead with three minutes left in the quarter.
After struggling early, Burger came alive in the third quarter with nine points to lead the Lady Bulldogs.
"At times tonight," said Grim, "Dexter doubled, even tripled teamed Burger. Kristain started to flash to the ball better in the second half and when she does that, she is a more effective player."
The Lady Bearcats responded to the Notre Dame run with a 5-0 run of their own to creep back into the contest. Heading into the fourth quarter, Dexter trailed Notre Dame 34-29.
"In all three games we have played against Notre Dame," said Miller, "they went on a big run which set the tone for all the games. Nothing different tonight. They got the big run and we had to adjust and run stuff that we normally don't do. We were nervous in the first half and it only increased in the second. We are a young team and our youthfulness showed tonight. We made mistakes that young girls make."
To start the fourth quarter, Notre Dame went on a 7-0 run to increase their lead to 41-29 with 5:45 to play. Dexter was down 47-39 with 2:30 to go in the contest when Finch nailed a long 3-pointer to cut the lead to 47-42.
The Lady Bearcats further cut into the lead on a offensive rebound and putback by sophomore guard Jill Temples to cut the deficit down to three, 47-44, with 1:30 to play.
On the Lady Bulldogs next possession, they missed a shot and Dexter secured the rebound with one minute on the clock. Dexter turned the ball right back over trailing 47-44 on their next possession.
Dexter had to foul with 55 seconds left and Notre Dame made 1-of-2 foul shots to increase the lead to 48-44. The Lady Bearcats had two opportunities on their offensive end and could not get the ball to fall into the basket. Notre Dame secured the defensive rebound and were immediately fouled.
Senior Meridith Medlin calmly sank two free-throws to up the lead to 50-44 with 30 seconds left on the clock. Dexter turned the ball over once again on their next offensive possession and had to foul Burger, who nailed two foul shots to seal the win.
"We had our chances tonight," said Miller, "we just didn't capitalize. We made some key turnovers and the way we shot the ball from the free-throw line will not win very many games."
Burger led the Lady Bulldogs with 20 points, nine rebounds and had four steals. Medlin ended her night with 13 points and five rebounds.
Notre Dame (17-8) won the game from the foul line. While Dexter only went 6-for-13, the Lady Bulldogs were 14-for-19. Burger and Medlin were a combined 13-for-16, including 8-for-9 in the fourth quarter. Medlin was a perfect 6-for-6 in the fourth.
"We hit our free-throws down the stretch," said Grim. "Last year I think we shot around 47 percent from the line. This year it is over 70 percent. The girls have put the work in to improve that area. It was anybody's game at the end. We have a good group of seniors and they stepped up when they had to."
Fowler ended with 10 points and five rebounds for Notre Dame. The Lady Bulldogs outrebounded Dexter 33-29, but were beat on the offensive glass 14-11.
Finch netted 13 points and had three assists in her final game in a Lady Bearcat uniform. Sophomore Katelyn Heil had 10 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Temples also had 10 points, with four rebounds and three steals. Junior Amanda Dooley led Dexter with 10 rebounds and had six points.
"This has been a special group," said Miller. "They always played with heart and desire. Even though we came up on the wrong end tonight and didn't play our best game, I was pleased with the girls effort. I can't complain about the effort."
Fredericktown had to make a fourth quarter comeback to defeat a pesky Perryville squad.
The Lady Pirates led 38-30 heading into the fourth quarter after outscoring the Lady Cats 17-7 in the third.
Fredericktown (24-2) responded out of the gates in the fourth quarter with a 8-0 run to tie the game at 38 with 5:20 left in the game. Perryville didn't help their cause during the run by making seven turnovers, six on six straight offensive possession.
Perryville (16-10) did regroup later on the fourth and led 44-41 with 1:26 left in the contest. Junior Johnna Tinnin tied the game with a one minute on the clock for the Lady Cats, with a conventional 3-point play off an offensive rebounds.
The Lady Cats forced a turnover with 50 seconds left and worked the clock for a last shot. Fredericktown passed the ball around the perimeter to senior Nicki Settlemoir with eight seconds left in the game. Settlemoir made a nice entry pass over a Perryville defender to 6-0 center Betsy Royer, who scored the lay-in with 3.2 seconds left in the contest.
Perryville could not get a shot off in the last three seconds and the Lady Cats escaped with a 46-44 win.
Royer led Fredericktown with 14 points, nine rebounds and controlled the middle with eight blocks. Junior Tricia Ward had 12 points and Settlemoir chipped in with nine points and eight rebounds. Junior point guard Courtney Kemp ended her night with seven points, six assists, six steals and four rebounds.
Junior Alyssa Bauwens led Perryville with 16 points and grabbed five rebounds.