(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
BLOOMFIELD -- In his last game against his biggest rival, Dexter senior Alan Flannigan finally received what he's been waiting for the last five years.
A win over the Bernie Mules
"We've lost to them dating back to seventh grade," Flannigan said. "It felt good the last time we ever played them to get that win."
Flannigan poured in 16 points on 5-of-11 shooting and hauled in 14 rebounds in a 56-49 Dexter win over the Mules on Friday night during the championship game of the Stoddard County Athletic Association tournament at Bloomfield High School.
Bernie had won the last six games when facing the Bearcats, including a 61-55 win on Jan. 14 and a 47-46 win during last year's thrilling SCAA championship.
Dexter ended the streak with a different defensive approach -- something they had never shown the Mules before.
"We've played a ton of close games with these guys and we've tried different things to beat them," Dexter head coach Rob Nichols said. "We've pressured them as hard as we could, play them a straight half-court man or zone and try to limit their dribble penetration. Their guards are good, they shoot it well, pass it good.
"Tonight, we didn't open up with it, but we spent some time in a triangle and two and that was the difference in the basketball game. It kept them off balance a little bit and, at that point, I think we got confidence in our offense from our defense."
The triangle and two defense concentrated primarily on Bernie sharp-shooters, Jordan McGowan and Cameron Shipman. Bryn Hester and Tyler Miller, who added 10 points and three steals, were responsible for being the 'two' that kept tight, man-to-man defense on both McGowan and Shipman while Dexter's other three defenders stayed in a zone protecting the inside.
Still, McGowan, who shot 6-of-13 from the field, ended up with five 3-pointers on 11 3-point attempts while Shipman drained three, including two late in the fourth quarter, but it was the confusion that Dexter brought to the table that shook the Mules.
"We changed our defensive philosophy and gave them different looks," said Flannigan. "It really kind of threw them for a loop for a while. Guys like McGowan and Shipman are going to hit shots regardless, but it really threw what they wanted to do out of the picture.
"They've never seen that from us before."
Before the triangle and two, however, Bernie began with the early advantage.
The Mules opened the first quarter with an 11-4 lead. Dexter, however, fought back with a 3-pointer from Logan Robey and a 3-of-4 performance from the free throw line by Flannigan to make it a 13-10 Bernie lead at the end of the first quarter -- setting the stage for yet another Dexter-Bernie battle.
The Bearcats outscored the Mules 14-11 in the second frame as Flannigan and Taylor Jarrell each chipped in four points apiece.
The first half ended at a 24-24 tie after McGowan hit his third 3-pointer of the second quarter with just two seconds left.
"We weren't very happy about that," said Nichols said about McGowan's late 3-pointer before the half. "We didn't finish the quarter very well. We forced it where we should have been taking the last shot. We let McGowan -- we didn't really let him get loose -- he just hit a tough shot. That kid hits tough shots."
Dexter (12-7) began to pull away in the third quarter behind eight points from Flannigan. The Bearcats closed the third with a 14-4 run which included a 3-pointer by Dexter's Jake Cox to give the Bearcats the lead at 31-29. It turned out to be the last lead change of the night as Dexter never relinquished it's advantage.
"It gave us a lot of momentum going into the fourth quarter," said Flannigan about their third quarter run. "It really got us revved up. Everybody says in a championship game you should be revved up anyway but, I mean, that's just a little bit of added momentum to take with you.
"Anytime you have the momentum with you heading into the fourth quarter in a big game, it's always a plus."
The Bearcats entered the fourth quarter with a 41-33 advantage.
Dexter went up by as many as 15 points in the fourth quarter from a 13-6 run. A 3-pointer by Shipman and late baskets by Sammy Walker and McGowan, who led the Mules with 17 points and eight rebounds, made it the 7-point final margin.
"We forced them to take some shots and our guys rebounded," said Nichols. "Bernie is a team that they're not going to quit. Any time you can beat them you're going to have to play well. They're a good basketball team with good basketball players."
The Bearcats shot 52 percent (22-of-42) from the field while Bernie was 44 percent (16-of-36). Dexter's last SCAA tournament title was in 2009.
"It's the last tournament I'll ever play (at Bloomfield) and we made it a good one," Flannigan said. "It's something that the juniors and sophomores will have something to look forward to in the next couple of years and hopefully carry on the tradition."
DEXTER (56) -- Jake Cox 5, Bryn Hester 5, Alan Flannigan 16, Logan Robey 8, Jake Lee 6, Tyler Miller 10, Taylor Jarrell. FG 22, FT 7-18, F 11. (3-pointers: Cox 1, Hester 1, Flannigan 1, Robey 2. Fouled out: none.)
BERNIE (49) -- Cameron Shipman 11, Matt Eaves 2, Jesse Shelton 7, Bryce Rodgers 2, Sammy Walker 10, Jordan McGowan 17. FG 16, FT 9-10, F 17. (3-pointers: Shipman 3, McGowan 5. Fouled out: none.)
BLOOMFIELD -- The Dexter Bearcats' junior varsity squad also won their conference tournament championship with a 61-46 victory over Bloomfield on Friday.
Dexter's Chase Young scored a game-high 23 points in the win while Ryan Joyner and Brad Potts chipped in 12 and 10 points respectively.
The Bearcats consistently outscored Bloomfield in every quarter on their way to their fourth consecutive title and their 14th since 1997.
DEXTER (61) -- Chase Young 23, Cody Neldon 9, D.J. Dowdy 6, Brad Potts 10, Ryan Joyner 12, Jordan Miller 1. FG 24, FT 12-21, F 17. (3-pointers: Young 1. Fouled out: none.)
BLOOMFIELD (46) -- Brett Ruch 15, Austin Williamson 12, Caleb Baker 9, Thomas Sanders 2, Ryan West 2, Travis Phillips 6. FG 15, FT 15-22, F 14. (3-pointers: Baker 1. Fouled out: none.)