(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
BROSELEY -- For the first 27 minutes of Saturday night's championship game of the Lady Royals Holiday Classic, Portageville seemed to trade punches with top-seeded Dexter. Then everything changed.
Dexter, holding a slim 45-42 lead, went on a 23-3 run in the final five minutes to defeat Portageville 68-45, and in the process won their third-straight Lady Royals Holiday Classic championship.
"It was definitely a hard fought contest," said Dexter coach Chad Allen. "Portageville is a very good team and they showed it tonight. Luckily we pulled away there toward the end but the score didn't really show the outcome of the game."
Portageville cut the Dexter lead to 45-42 with 5:20 left to play in the game after a Talisa Walker 3-pointer, but instead of crumbling under the pressure, Dexter responded with their final run of the contest. Taking advantage of an injury to the Lady Bulldogs' top scorer, Brittney Walker, who went down with what appeared to be a leg injury, Dexter turned up the heat on defense and offense to spark their run.
"We had that timeout and coach just calmed us down and told us to play our game," said Dexter's Katelyn Heil, who finished with 19 points, four rebounds and five assists. "We had been letting them set the tempo so we turned around and we took defense into our hands and it just went uphill from there."
Allen said he made two adjustments during the timeout that seemed to spark the Lady Bearcats.
"We ended up switching from the man to the match-up (zone) and it rattled them a little bit," Allen said. "Offensively we just told them to take it to the hole and it seemed like both things really helped us, especially there in the late fourth quarter."
Portageville coach Eric Ellerbrook said he thought injuries played a part in Dexter's run at the end of the game.
"We had a few injuries with four minutes and we got tired and got sloppy on offense and made some turnovers," Ellerbrook said. "If you do that against Dexter they are going to capitalize on it. They are very good team, a talented team and a well-coached team. They hustled and they did a good job."
But Portageville's Courtney Chamberlain scored the first 10 points of the second quarter, including two 3-pointers to give the Lady Bulldogs their only lead of the game at 19-17 with 6:04 remaining in the first half.
"I was just feeling it," Chamberlain said. "I was getting my momentum going. It was the only points I scored in the game but it helped bring us back."
Dexter went on a 13-0 run to answer Chamberlain's outburst, giving Dexter a 30-19 advantage, but Portageville slowly climbed back in the game trailing 33-25 at half and only 41-37 after three quarters.
"I am so proud of my girls and I thought they played really well for 28 minutes," Ellerbrook said. "The game lasts 32 minutes and I thought for 28 we played really well."
"I don't think we were ready for (Portageville)," said Dexter's Ashlee Taylor, who finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds. "They've improved a lot since last year, especially losing Kellye Penn we didn't expect it, but they played a real hard game."
Dexter's Abbie Warren joined Heil by scoring 19 points to lead the Lady Bearcats.
"(Abbie) didn't make the (all-tournament team) but she got on the boards and got a lot of stick backs," Allen said. "She is a big threat inside. She is real strong and I thought she did an unbelievable job on (Portageville's Jeleea) Drake."
Warren also pulled down nine rebounds and limited Drake to just seven points.
"Coach told us that our girl wasn't going to score so I just put my mind to it that Drake wasn't going to score and she wasn't going to get any rebounds," Warren said. "I just went out there and played hard."
"It was definitely a total team effort," Allen said. "Katelyn, Ashlee and Jill, who got all-tournament team, had a great tournament. Also Cathryn Heil, she gets a lot of deflections, a lot of steals and she almost averages double figures for us too."
Dexter's Cathryn Heil scored 10 points for the Lady Bearcats and pulled down five rebounds while Temples added eight points and five steals.
Portageville (10-1) was led by Brittney Walker's 14 points. The senior also had five rebounds and four steals in the contest before leaving with her injury. She did return to the game late in the fourth quarter.
Ronesha Ray added 11 points for Portageville while Chamberlain finished with 10 points and four rebounds.
With the win, Dexter stays undefeated, improving to 12-0 and seemed spent after winning their third-straight title.
"It was a little rougher than we thought," said Dexter's Katelyn Heil. "Its been a physical week. We've been banged around a little bit and I know some people are sore so it is nice to be done and have a couple of nights off."
"It feels great," said Taylor of the third-straight title. "We wanted to go out with the win and that's all we've been talking about is that three-peat."
Notes: Dexter's Katelyn Heil, Taylor and Jill Temples were named to the All-Tournament Team as was Portageville's Brittney Walker and Drake. Other members to the All-Tournament Team were: Greenville's Tara Porter; Kelly's Londyn Backfisch and Debra Hall, Torey Davis of Twin Rivers; Naylor's Moriah Goodrum; Neelyville's Lindsey Emerson and Charleston's Jerquawnda Sherrell.