(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
DEXTER -- The Dexter girls basketball team came out with an emphasis on being aggressive from the start of their Class 4, District 1 semifinal game against Sikeston Thursday night. It worked.
The Lady Bearcats jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter and never trailed the entire game en route to a 64-39 win over Sikeston, advancing to the district championship game tonight against Notre Dame.
"It was exciting," said Dexter sophomore Lauren Ward of her team's start. "We normally don't start out very good. Coach told us when we started to go out and play hard from the beginning and that's what we tried to do."
Dexter used their full-court press to create numerous turnovers early in the first quarter and the Lady Bearcats converted them into layups to grab the 10-0 lead. Sikeston's Keyonna Blissett broke the scoring drought on a layup with 3:45 remaining in the first quarter, but Dexter continued to score, stretching their lead to 16-4 after one. In the quarter, Sikeston turned the ball over 10 times, mainly due to the Lady Bearcats' pressure.
"We worked on (the press) a lot in practice and coach just said go after it and be aggressive because we needed to step up our defense," said Ward who finished with 17 points, five assists and four steals.
Sikeston coach Homer Jackson said nerves may have played a part in the Lady Bulldogs' early struggles as his young squad had never played in a district semifinal game.
"It's like a new experience," Jackson said. "It was our first time being in this arena at this time. So I think nerves had something to do with it but after a while we settled down."
Dexter continued their strong defensive play in the second quarter while pounding the ball inside on offense, picking up several easy baskets. When the buzzer sounded at the end of the first half, Dexter held a comfortable 29-12 lead.
"Overall I thought we did a really good job, especially the first half defensively," said Dexter coach Chad Allen. "The second half we didn't do too well defensively but the girls played hard tonight and I thought they executed our game plan pretty well."
A big part of the Dexter game plan involved getting the ball inside to their post players, senior Abby Warren and freshman Brittany Harris. Warren scored a game-high 20 points and pulled down 13 rebounds while Harris had 16 points and five rebounds.
"We knew we could hurt them inside so we really wanted to pound the ball inside and try to get it into them," Allen said. "They scored quite a few points tonight and got quite a few offensive boards and had a great game."
"It's really good to be able to lob it up to (Warren and Harris) because they are so tall," Ward said. "We used that to our advantage tonight for sure."
Jackson said they knew Dexter would try to exploit their inside game.
"Our goal was to not let them get inside the lane and shoot and we gave them that early," Jackson said. "We tried to fight back there in the second half but it was a little bit too much."
Sikeston did try to rally in the second half, handling the ball better on offense and even getting some easy layups on the Lady Bearcat press.
"Early on I thought we caused quite a few turnovers and actually got some points off turnovers early," Allen said of the press. "Sikeston adjusted a little bit and they started breaking it and getting some points off it. We had to back it off and go into our half-court defense and I thought we did a great job in it."
In the second half, Dexter (15-9) seemed to answer every challenge and rolled to the 64-39 win, setting up the title match-up with Notre Dame at 6 p.m. tonight. The Lady Bulldogs defeated Dexter 60-50 in Cape Girardeau on Feb. 16.
"The last time we played them at (Notre Dame) it was close," Allen said. "We had the lead two or three times during the game and the most we had was a two point lead. Going late in the game we got a little fatigued but hopefully our endurance is a little bit better now and hopefully we can play them close again and hopefully come out on top."
Sikeston was led in scoring by Asia Liggins' 12 points as the Lady Bulldogs finished the season at 8-14. Thursday's game also marked the final game for Jackson who is retiring.
"Its been a real learning experience for me," Jackson said. "I wanted to teach them fundamental basketball and teach them how to be competitive. I wanted to teach them to be good sportsmen and be good student-athletes as they represent their families and their school and I thought they did a good job of that."
Jackson said he is especially proud of the complimentary report from officials on the girls' sportsmanship that they received each of his three years as head coach. He also said he is thankful the girls got to play against Scott County Central in the Show Me Center, but he also expressed his thanks to the parents.
"I'm thankful for the families for trusting me with their daughters," Jackson said. "I hope I did enough that I did not disappoint them and that I had their child's best interest in mind.
"The future looks bright for Sikeston girls basketball. I'm happy to have had an opportunity to be a part of that. It's been a fun experience."
SIKESTON (39) -- Tyanne Townsend 8, Keyonna Blissett 5, Darqueshionna Howard 5, Aleah Little 2, Asia Liggins 12, Tyangela Gibson 4, Jani Ivory 3. FG 14, FT 10-21, F 17. (3-pointers: Howard 1. Fouled out: none).
DEXTER (64) -- Katelyn Frazier 5, Lauren Ward 17, Shelby Hessling 2, Brittany Harris 16, Erica Mouser 2, Abbie Warren 20, Sarah Langley 2. FG 24, FT 14-20, F 18. (3-pointers: Ward 2. Fouled out: none).
Notre Dame 63, Ste. Genevieve 23
Notre Dame jumped out to a 22-2 lead after one quarter and trounced Ste. Genevieve 63-23 in the other district semifinal.
STE. GENEVIEVE (23) -- Elle Korenak 7, Gwen Dallas 4, Laura Rhodes 5, Abby Meyer 2, Sam Brown 2, Kortney Campbell 3. FG 7, FT 6-14, F 13. (3-pointers: Korenak 2, Rhodes. Fouled out: none.)
NOTRE DAME (63) -- Katherine Blasiney 6, Brianne Sanders 5, Allyson Bradshaw 14, Jane Morrill 12, Brooke Bohnert 4, Meghan Dohogne 15, Madison Huckstep 4, Summer Burger 6. FG 26, FT 12-18, F 12. (3-pointers: Bradshaw 2. Fouled out: none.)