(David Jenkins photo)
DEXTER -- The Dexter Lady Bearcats had one of last year's Class 1 final four teams on the ropes for 31 of the 32 minutes that made up their Monday night game against the Naylor Lady Eagles.
The visiting Lady Eagles, however, shot lights out from behind the arc hitting their last four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter which led to obtaining and keeping a late lead for a 57-55 win at the Bearcat Event Center in Dexter.
"I thought we definitely came off with a good start," Dexter head coach Chad Allen said. "We were moving well and it was just like we hit a wall."
Going into the final frame with an already dwindling lead in hand, the Lady Bearcats were stung by Naylor's Andrea Sullivan.
Sullivan worked their way through Dexter's zone defense to find wide open 3-point shots. She hit the first of her three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter which cut the Lady Bearcats lead to three and then tied the game at 41 with her second.
"We worked the zone and got down the floor and got our shooters spotted up and hit some three's," Naylor head coach Gene Deckard said.
Battling back-and-forth soon after, Naylor (7-4) eventually grabbed their first lead of the night off of a Holly Deckard basket with 2:42 left showing on the clock.
Dexter would regain a 1-point lead when Paige Patterson scored her ninth point of the fourth quarter to make it a 53-52 Dexter advantage with 52 seconds remaining.
Sullivan answered with another 3-pointer from the wing pushing her Lady Eagles in front by two. It would end up being the game's biggest basket as Naylor would hold on to seal their comeback.
"They had way too many open looks," Allen said. "They knocked down a lot of three's. We just didn't move our feet defensively very well."
Sullivan was a perfect 5-for-5 from behind the arc. Three of her five came in the fourth quarter. As a team, Naylor hit 9-of-17 3-pointers -- six in the second half.
"Andrea can flat shoot the ball," Deckard said. "We have to give her a little time to get open. That's what we've been working on -- giving our shooters time to shoot the basketball."
Although Dexter squandered their late lead, things looked promising in the first three quarters.
Holding the Lady Eagles to one field goal in the first frame, the Lady Bearcats rushed out to a 13-4 lead in the first frame. Dexter's full-court pressure defense proved too much for Naylor to handle as bad passes led to seven Lady Eagle turnovers.
"I thought our press worked really well in the beginning," said Allen. "It seemed like as the game went on we slowly wore down."
Although they were outscored in the second quarter, the Lady Bearcats still held a 5-point lead (26-21) going into halftime. But, Sullivan provided a small glimpse into the future by sinking a long 3-point shot right before the halftime buzzer giving the Lady Eagles some much needed momentum heading into the break.
The Lady Eagles outscored Dexter again in the third quarter (14-13) but the Lady Bearcats were still clinging to a 39-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter where their winning bid finally fell short.
Dexter (8-8) was led by Brittany Harris' 20 points. The sophomore also pulled down eight rebounds and picked off four steals. Patterson chipped in 12 points by scoring nine of those in the fourth quarter.
Sullivan's five 3-pointers were enough to give her a team-high of 15 points. Katelyn Hughey and Deckard added 14 and 13 points respectively. Hughey also had eight rebounds.
NAYLOR (57) -- Holly Deckard 13, Ericka Engleman 3, Katelyn Hughey 14, Darby Pruett 4, Kendal Rogers 8, Andrea Sullivan 15. FG 19, FT 10-12, F 12. (3-pointers: Deckard 3, Pruett 1, Sullivan 5. Fouled out: none.)
DEXTER (55) -- Mollie Whitehead 1, Katelyn Frazier 5, Hannah Noe 6, Alison Jarrell 7, Ericka Cobb 4, Brittany Harris 20, Paige Patterson 12. FG 22, FT 10-18, F 14. (3-pointers: Jarrell 1. Fouled out: none.)