(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
BLOOMFIELD -- Holding off a late Bloomfield rally in the semifinals Thursday night, the Dexter Bearcats were able to lock up their third-straight trip to finals at the Stoddard County Athletic Assocation Tournament.
After opening up the fourth quarter down 20 points, the Wildcats took advantage of Dexter's poor shooting in the frame to cut their deficit down to 10 with 46 seconds left in the game.
With Bloomfield only able to connect on one of their final four shots, however, the Bearcats hit six free throws in the final 45 seconds to seal the 63-49 win.
"When you're shooting it cold on offense and turning it over that's when you have to hunker in on defense and get stops and rebounds," Dexter's Alan Flannigan said. "I think we did a pretty good job of that."
Coming off a Bloomfield run towards the end of the fourth, the Bearcats' one-time seven point lead dwindled to two to end the first, the Bearcats were able to use a dominant second frame to build a comfortable halftime lead.
While Holding the Wildcats to only 3-of-9 shooting in the second quarter, Dexter was able to use a pair of Tyler Miller baskets to open up a 9-0 run at the start of the frame before scoring seven-unanswered points in the final two-and-a-half minutes to build a 34-19 advantage going into the break.
Though neither had much luck in the third, with Dexter shooting 3-of-12 and Bloomfield 3-of-16, the Bearcats were a perfect at the line, hitting 8-of-8 free throws to push their lead to 20 at 49-29 entering the fourth quarter.
It was after Dexter had extended their lead to 23 at 54-31 early in the frame that Bloomfield's offense came.
Starting with a pair of free throws from Seth Hill with 5:15 to play, the Wildcats put together a 12-2 run capped by Adam Vandiver turning a foul on his way up for a shot into a 3-point play, hitting the basket and ensuing free throw to cut his team's deficit to 13 with 3:42 to play.
"Once we got that lead we just couldn't do anything but let them slide back into the game," Dexter head coach Rob Nichols said. "Bloomfield doesn't quit. That's what they did last time (we played them), they slid back into the game."
Unable to continue their hot streak, Bloomfield came up empty-handed on their next five 3-point attempts as almost another three minutes came off the clock before the Wildcats could close to within when on Logan Cowart's only basket of the night with 46 seconds left in the game.
Forced to go for the big points, the Wildcats watched their final three 3-point shots of the night fail as Dexter took full advantage each of last three times that Bloomfield sent them to the line.
"We said we're going to try to drive there on the pick and hopefully we can get hot and get back into the game," Bloomfield head coach Dustin Hicks said. "We just couldn't string enough three's together to really get into it."
With Dexter's offense not having one of it's stronger nights, Flannigan was glad to see the Bearcats defense able to keep Bloomfield at bay in the second half.
"It's just goes back to defense," he said. "We try to keep our opponents under 50 points every game and we feel like if we do that we have a good shot no matter who we play.
"We really feel like that's what leads our team, our defense and that's what we pride ourselves on."
With Bernie's 73-67 win over Advance in the tournament's other semifinal contest Thursday night, Dexter (11-7) now has a chance avenge last year's 47-46 loss to the Mules in the tournament finals.
The championship game will start tonight at 8:30 p.m. while Bloomfield (10-6) and Advance will play earlier in the even at 5:30 p.m. for third place.
BLOOMFIELD (49) -- Logan Cowart 2, Seth Hill 20, Matt Merick 6, Dylan Bader 6, Adam Vandiver 11, Mitchell Skaggs 4. FG 18, FT 9-12, F 21. (3-pointers: Hill 2. Bader 2. Fouled out: none)
DEXTER (63) -- Jake Cox 7, Bryn Hester 10, Josh Sifford 3, Alan Flannigan 20, Jake Lee 4, Tyler Miller 12, Jacob Bollinger 2, Taylor Jarrell 5. FG 19, FT 22-36, F 16. (3-pointers: Hester 2, Miller 1. Fouled out: none)
ADVANCE -- (fg-ftm-fta-tp) Grant Gray 5-4-4-14, Hunter Wilson 4-3-5-15, John Middleton 4-1-2-9, Darren VanGennip 10-0-0-21, Dylan Dunivan 3-0-4-6, Jacob Spears 1-0-0-2. Totals: 27-8-15-67.
BERNIE -- (fg-ftm-fta-tp) Cameron Shipman 2-10-11-16, Matt Eaves 3-0-0-6, Jesse Shelton 1-1-6-3, Sammy Walker 10-2-5-22, Jordan McGowan 10-1-3-26. Totals: 26-14-25-73.
3-Pointers: Advance 5 (Wilson 4, VanGennip 1); Bernie 7 (McGowan 5, Chipman 2).