(Ben Striker/Daily American Republic)
When they turned up the defensive pressure, the game was in hand.
For a crucial three-minute stretch in the second quarter, Dexter's full-court pressure took control and led the way to an 81-63 victory Saturday in the MSHSAA Class 4 quarterfinal at Jefferson College.
"I thought we played exactly the way we want to play in the second quarter," Dexter coach Chad Allen said. "We really got after it, caused a lot of turnovers and scored a lot off those turnovers. That was just the biggest difference in the game."
With the win, Dexter (22-8) advanced to the Show-Me Showdown for the third time in five seasons. The Bearcats will play St. Pius X-Kansas City (25-3) in the state semifinals at 6:50 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena.
"It's crazy," Dexter junior Hannah Thurmon said. "I've been wanting to do this ever since I got to Dexter, just like the girls I watched when I was in eighth grade, and getting the opportunity is amazing."
The win also marked a sweet sense of revenge for several Dexter players who saw their volleyball season come to an end in a three-set thriller against Lutheran South in a quarterfinal back in October. The Lancers went on to win the Class 3 state title.
"Just a little bit of revenge," Dexter junior Krysten Garrison said. "I did not want to end another season against Lutheran South and now it's us going to the final four."
Dexter sophomore Chaylea Mosby scored 32 points and added five steals to lead her team. Garrison chipped in 22 from the post and Thurmon had 13 for the Bearcats, who shot 58 percent (28 of 48) from the field.
Dexter broke open a one-point game with their defense-fueled 17-2 run. Mosby made three 3-pointers during the game-changing spurt and Natalie Sitze added four points as the Bearcats surged into a 39-22 lead 3 minutes, 51 seconds before the break.
"Chaylea's just been solid all year," Allen said. "She's just a tremendous player offensively, defensively. She's just so well-rounded and makes things happen."
Dexter forced four turnovers during that span and 20 in the game.
It was the worst possible combination for Lutheran South. Dexter couldn't miss, and the Lancers couldn't hold on to the ball.
"We knew about it," Lutheran South coach Benjamin Ealick said of Dexter's press. "We were ready for it. (Peyton) Anderson was on the bench in foul trouble and she's usually another kind of calming presence against the press. At this time of the year it's that one run and that's the difference in the game."
The teams traded the final 16 points of the first half as the Bearcats took a 39-22 halftime advantage.
Lutheran South (20-9) battled back in the third to cut the deficit to 12. Leketor Member-Meneh scored six consecutive points and dished off to Katie Brown for two more during an 8-0 run.
But Garrison answered with a crushing 3-pointer at the buzzer to push it to 66-51.
Member-Meneh, a Mizzou volleyball signee, scored a game-high 35 points. She also broke the school's all-time scoring record during that third-quarter run and was one of the main reasons the Lancers stayed in it.
"Our gameplan was to definitely make her go left," Allen said of Member-Meneh. "She's so explosive and when she gets to that right hand, it's almost impossible to stop her. We knew Leketor was going to score, but we wanted to limit her."
Dexter had trouble holding her down, but they did limit the rest of the Lutheran South roster.
Member-Meneh scored over half of the Lancers' points, but Brown was the only other player to reach double figures. Four other Lutheran South players were held to seven points or less.
"We were hoping that (Mosby) and (Member-Meneh) would cancel each other out and our bench was a little deeper," Ealick said. "It was just that one run where they were able to keep some starters on the floor and we had some kids in foul trouble."
Chaylea Mosby scored the first six points of the fourth and Cheyenne Mosby added a layup to push Dexter's lead past 20 for the first time.
Lutheran South answered with an 11-2 run to pull the deficit down to 76-63 but never got closer.
Dexter stalled over the final 3 minutes and ended the game on a 5-0 spurt.
Dexter never trailed after jumping out to an 8-2 lead but Lutheran South stayed in it throughout the first 8 minutes thanks to a 3 from Brown to cut it to one. Thurmon and Mosby combined to score the next nine Dexter points and took a 19-16 lead into the second.
Lutheran South stayed on the Bearcats' heels and got within one point 15 seconds into the second before Dexter pulled away to advance to the state semifinals for the first time since 2014.
"I'm just excited for these girls," Allen said. "They've worked hard all this year and we've had a lot of adversity this year with injuries and sickness and people coming back from surgery. It's been a trying time throughout the year, but the girls pulled it together here late and now we're on a roll."