The Mules regained the Christmas Tournament title for the first time in 15 years Tuesday night and appeared in their first final since 1996.
Bernie head coach Brad Botsch and his team were filled with the emotions of the milestone.
Botsch noted the extra meaning of the win coming against the Portageville program and legendary coach Jim Bidewell.
"As a coach, I've been beat by Portageville a couple of times. It just feels so great to beat such a great team especially since they are coached by one of the best coaches ever maybe."
Mules point guard Jake Welch echoed Botsch's excitement at the win and respect for the Bulldogs.
"It's unbelievable," Welch said after being named to the All-Tournament team. "Portageville is a great team with great defense and a great tradition."
Welch recorded 20 points, two assists, three rebounds, and five steals in his teams winning effort Tuesday.
Bernie, despite two key starters not playing due to injury, never trailed in the contest.
The Mules jumped out to a 5-0 advantage over Portageville (8-1) in the first 45 seconds of the contest on a driving Welch layup and a 3-pointer from the corner by Jake Owens.
Owens hit an astounding four 3-pointers in the first quarter, propelling Bernie to their 22-14 lead after the period.
Botsch noted Owens clutch performance in last years Christmas Tournament.
"Jake (Owens) had a good tournament here last year where scored 20 or more in every game," Botsch said. "He hasn't played as well as he would have liked to so far this year, but for some reason he just really likes this gym."
The Bulldogs had no desire to go down with out a fight however, and went on an 11-5 run to draw within two points at 27-25 with 2:17 remaining before halftime. The Mules answered with a 7-2 run before the half and took a comfortable seven point advantage to the locker room.
Bernie, having watched Portageville's 19-0 run in the third quarter of their semifinal game Monday against Twin Rivers, knew they had to reestablish control right away in the second half.
They did just that, as they outscored the Bulldogs 17-4 in the third quarter and put them up 51-31 and game out of reach for Portageville.
Bidewell spoke highly of his championship game opponents Tuesday.
"They were the better team tonight by far," Bidwell said after his teams first loss of the season."You have to give them credit, they got every loose rebound and hit their shots and they hustled."
Bidewell felt the Mules were well aware of the need to have a strong third quarter.
"They (Bernie) knew going into halftime what we did last night in the third quarter," he said. "I'm sure they talked about it and they were not going to be denied tonight."
Bidewell complimented Botsch and his staff for handling the adversity of losing two starters.
"To have two starters out like they do and play that way, they deserve a lot of credit," he said. "Their coaches did a phenomenal job. I'm not sure we could have done that. Not only did we get outplayed, I got out coached. That's why they deserved the first place trophy."
With starters Jake Smith and Zach Curry out, Botsch had to rely on a core of six contributing players.
"We really only played six kids tonight and every single one of our guys really stepped up for us tonight," Botsch said.
Bernie shot the ball extremely well, knocking down seven 3-pointers, five of them in the first quarter.
"We shot it well tonight, especially right out of the gate," Botsch said. "I feel like that put them (Portageville) on their heels a little bit. We haven't shot the ball well like this all year, maybe this is a turning point for us. We have played defense all year, but maybe now we will continue to shoot well."
The Mules were also 18-24 from the free throw line.
Bidewell feels this loss will give his team motivation to keep improving.
"We are not at their caliber yet, we will need a lot of practice time to play at that caliber," he said. "I'm proud of our kids though. No one is more embarrassed than they are, but I think they will respond well. Tonight was Bernie's night, and they deserved it."
Botsch's final comments Tuesday night spoke to the resilience of his squad.
"Our kids were so resilient this week," he said. "Tonight, they just didn't seem like they would be denied. I'm so proud of them."
The Dexter Bearcats redeemed themselves following Monday's 68-41 trouncing at the hands of the Bernie Mules by rolling past the Twin Rivers Royals 77-51 in the third place game of the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament Tuesday.
The game appeared as if it was to be a defensive struggle between the two teams with Dexter holding a three-point advantage at 7-4 four minutes into the contest.
That was until the Bearcats (4-6) applied a devastating full court press, causing the Royals to turn the ball over 11 times in the first quarter alone. Dexter's defense caused 28 Twin Rivers turnovers total in the game.
"We did a good job pressing tonight," Bearcat head coach Rob Nichols said. "We talked about how we had a tough game last night and they (Twin Rivers) had an emotional loss last night as well. We knew it would come down to who came out with more mental toughness and who got off to a quick start. We really stressed that and they responded well."
The turnovers set up a 19-0 run by the Dexter offense, led by shooting guard turned point guard Drew Kelly.
"We made an adjustment and moved Drew (Kelley) to the point to told him he is going to run the team tonight and have him make better decisions out there for us," Nichols said. "I'm extremely proud of Drew (Kelley). That was the best basketball game he has played, in scoring and all aspects, since he put on a Dexter uniform. I can't think of one mistake he made out there tonight. I'm really proud of him."
Kelley contributed 23 points, six assists, six rebounds, and three steals Tuesday night.
After the run, the Royals were never able to pull any closer than seven, and trailed by 20 or more for most of the second half.
Nichols also pointed to the contributions of Ryan Windham as key to his team's success.
Windham provided six points, three assists, seven rebounds and five steals in the third place victory.
"That's something people don't understand about Ryan Windham's play," Nichols said. "He may not put a ton of points up but he has an outstanding floor game. When I watch game tapes, he is up there in almost every statistic. He is doing the thing people don't cheer for and he is doing a great job at it for us."
Jon Bowman of Dexter also added 20 points, including six 3-pointers en route to being named to the All-Tournament Team.
Nichols was extremely proud of his team's showing Tuesday in respect to their semifinal game.
"After we lost our composure last night, we wanted to come out and show this crowd that is not what we are all about," he said. "I'm as proud as I have ever been of these guys."
The No. 14 seed, Van Buren Bulldogs, held off a furious Bloomfield rally to win the fifth place game of the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament.
Van Buren held a 42-29 lead going into the final quarter, but a stifling Bloomfield full-court press caused numerous Bulldog turnovers, getting the Wildcats back in the game. Bloomfield tied the game at 53 with two minutes left when Blake Harris stole the ball from Van Buren and fed Seth Hill for a layup.
Van Buren then outscored the Wildcats 5-2 in the final two minutes, setting up a last second attempt to tie for Bloomfield as Harris had a 3-point shot from the top of the key go off the mark.
Leighton Hensley led the Wildcats with 14 points while Harris added 13. Van Buren was led by Michael Duncan's 18 points. Tyler Freeze and Sledge Crawley each scored 10 apiece.
The Hayti Indians rallied from a slow start to defeat Doniphan in overtime to win the consolation title of the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament.
Hayti was held to just five points in the first quarter, trailing the Dons 12-5 after one frame and 28-22 at halftime. The Indians rallied though and tied the game only to see a 3-point attempt from the left wing by Doniphan's Logan Rush just miss the mark.
Doniphan had a chance to win in overtime as Frankie Cape was fouled on a 3-point shot but his free throws were off the mark as Hayti escaped with the win.
Denzel Presberry led Hayti with 21 points while Keenan Williams ended with 12. Mitch Granier had 19 points for Doniphan while Greg Davis put in 18.
The following players were named to the 52nd Annual Bloomfield Christmas Tournament All-Tournament team: Greg Davis (Doniphan), Dometric Treadwell (Portageville), Tyler Freeze (Van Buren), Kyle Oberkramer (Twin Rivers), Jon Bowman (Dexter), Leighton Hensley (Bloomfield), Jake Welch (Bernie), Byron Wright (Portageville), John Smith (Puxico), Brett Whitlock (Twin Rivers), Denzel Presberry (Hayti), Drew Thornton (Richland), Jake Owens (Bernie).