(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
PARK HILLS -- The youthfulness of the Dexter Lady Bearcats finally caught up with them.
A veteran Farmington Knightettes squad set a disastrous early tone, putting the inexperienced Lady Bearcats on their heels en route to a 68-44 Dexter loss during the Class 4 Sectional at Mineral Area College.
It was a stark contrast in the two team's last meeting when Farmington pulled out a close 56-51 win in early January.
"I thought that Farmington did a really good job of getting out on us early and taking advantage of us," Dexter head coach Chad Allen said. "I think five of their top seven players are seniors. They've been here before."
Dexter, who featured a host of freshman and sophomore players, suffered a major setback in the opening three minutes in front of a big crowd and unusual surroundings -- unlike their district championship win over Notre Dame at the Bearcat Event Center.
"I didn't know how the girls would react being on the road," Allen said. "Being at home in a big environment they felt pretty relaxed. It seemed like we did come out a little timid."
Farmington opened the first quarter on a 13-3 run. They drained six of their first seven shots while Dexter struggled missing seven of their 10 in the frame.
The Knightettes continued to pour it on grabbing a comfortable 24-7 lead at the end of the period. Farmington's Morgan Ankrom, a 6-0 senior, aided their winning margin by scoring nine of her 16 points in the first quarter.
"We wanted to come out and get after it," Farmington coach Steve McFarland said. "We knew they were young and would probably be a little nervous with a big crowd. So, we wanted to come out and set a tone and try to jump on them early and discourage them a bit."
Along with Ankrom, 5-11 sophomore Rachel Williams seemingly had their way under the basket. They helped limit Dexter to one shot on offense while grabbing offensive rebounds on their end of the court. The duo combined to score 20 points in the first half.
"They're strong inside," McFarland said about Ankrom and Williams. "They play big and they run the floor well. So, when we're pushing the ball, we get a height advantage with big girls running the floor."
Dexter was slowed by them both inside. The Lady Bearcats shot 30 percent (7 of 23) in the first half which included seven missed 3-pointers. They also were forced into 10 turnovers in the first two quarters as well.
"We've been playing pretty good defense lately and I thought we did a good job of getting in the lanes and stopping their penetration," said McFarland. "That turned into some easy baskets for us."
To combat both Ankrom and Williams, Dexter relied on their bigs, 6-0 sophomore Brittany Harris and 6-0 freshman Paige Patterson. Harris did her best to answer their scoring with all of her eight points coming in the first half.
But charged with the task of battling Ankrom and Williams proved too much as Harris also fell into foul trouble. She eventually fouled out in the third quarter.
"I thought that was probably a big part of it," Allen said about Harris' foul trouble. "But, overall, I felt like we didn't come out and really compete real hard at the beginning of the game.
"We wanted to try and take that away from them. We just didn't get it done," Allen said about Ankrom and Williams. "We wanted to try and keep them off the boards and limit their touches. But, those are two great players and they have a lot of girls that surround them too that make them even better."
Williams led the Knightettes with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Brittany Gladbach added 10 points as well.
After Lady Bearcats went into halftime down 35-16, there wasn't much improvement to open the second half. Farmington scored nine-straight points to claim a 28-point advantage, 44-16.
The Knightettes employed their superb passing skills to spread the floor and find open cutters to the basket throughout the second half to sustain their big lead.
"To me, it seemed like Farmington was more fluid," said Allen. "They moved the ball well and they really looked inside to get it to their bigs. They definitely looked like the best team we played all year. I feel like they may go to the final four."
Behind six points from Hannah Noe, the Lady Bearcats closed the gap somewhat at the end of the third quarter, 53-32.
"After a while, the girls started kicking it in there and started battling," Allen said. "I thought we did good once we got going."
Dexter failed to get any closer than 19 points in the fourth quarter. They ended their season with a 17-10 record.
"Our girls have progressed so much throughout the course of this year," Allen said. "We've grown up a lot ever since the first game. I'm just proud of these girls on how hard they worked and how much they have improved."
Although it didn't end like they wanted, the Lady Bearcats earned tons of valuable experience for a team starting three freshman and two sophomores.
"There's never been a team that's come through Dexter this young and get this much experience," said Allen. "We told them to remember how this feels. You have to work harder to get better and try to get beyond this point in the years to come."
DEXTER (44) -- Mollie Whitehead 4, Katelyn Frazier 5, Hannah Noe 11, Alison Jarrell 5, Erika Cobb 6, Brittany Harris 8, Paige Patterson 5. FG 16, FT 10-18, F 19. (3-pointers: Noe 1, Jarrell 1. Fouled out: Harris.)
FARMINGTON (68) -- Brittany Gladbach 10, Erin Littrell 8, Tayhlor Milfeld 3, Jessica Hicks 4, Morgan Ankrom 16, Kelly Peterson 2, Rachel Williams 23, Rachel Porter 2. FG 23, FT 19-26, F 16. (3-pointers: Gladbach 2, Milfeld 1. Fouled out: Littrell.)