(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
DEXTER -- Even though the Charleston Bluejays were able to hold on for a nine point win over the Dexter Bearcats on Tuesday night, that was almost not the case towards the end of the game.
With 4:02 left in the fourth quarter, the Bearcats capped off a 10-3 run after Jered Stephens sent a pass under the basket to Alan Flannigan to cut the Bluejays lead to 56-54.
After the uphill climb to get back into the game and cut the lead to only two points, the Bearcats had a hard time trying to get a bucket to fall.
"We had three shots on one possession to take the lead," Dexter head coach Rob Nichols said. "If one of those goes it may be a different story because our kids were into the game at that point."
The Bluejays went on to outscore Dexter 9-to-2 in the remaining minutes of the game to edge out the Bearcats 65-56.
"We played good at times and we played bad at times," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said. "We kept getting a lead and then we let them back in the game. We're just going to have to keep working."
Another big reason why the Bluejays were able to hold on for the win was the difference in free throw shooting. Charleston shot 63 percent (21-33) while Dexter struggled at the line with a 42 percent (11-26) showing.
"That's not going to beat good teams," Nichols said about the free throw difference. "That's not going to beat Charleston."
From the point where Charleston held a two point advantage, the Bearcats went to the line four times and did not sink a shot while Charleston iced the game with 7-out-of-11 free throws made.
"It came down to free throw shooting," Farmer said. "We shot free throws a lot better than Dexter did. If they would have shot free throws better it probably would have been a much closer game."
Both teams struggled to hang on to the ball for most of the first half as they tallied 31 turnovers between them. Dexter, who was playing in their first game against the Bluejays, turned the ball over 18 times while the Bluejays gave it up 13 times which turned out to be a big reason why the Bluejays were able to grab a 37-25 lead at half time.
"We saw a lot of jitters in the first half," Nichols said. "We just couldn't slow down. We were ramped up and we didn't take our time and we made a lot of turnovers just because we could not slow down. Charleston plays great defense and they put a lot of pressure on you, but you have got to be seasoned enough to slow the ball down and get what you need to do in the half court set. They just forced us to play a little too fast."
Charleston was led by Donald Dixon who scored 27 points on the night while Antonio Riggens had 11 and Chase McClendon added 10. Riggens also pulled down 10 rebounds as well.
Luciano Starling led the Bearcats with 12 points. Stephens was Dexter's second leading scorer with 10.
Dexter won the junior varsity game 62-50.
Charleston's next game will be at the SEMO Conference Tournament on Monday when they take on the Notre Dame Bulldogs at 7 p.m.
Dexter will travel to Sikeston to take on the Bulldogs on Friday night following the junior varsity game that starts at 6 p.m.