(Ben Striker/Daily American Republic)
In 2013 it was a loss in the championship game, the following year it was a fourth place finish.
On Thursday, the Lady Bearcats got a little redemption.
(Ben Striker/Daily American Republic)
"It feels great. We told the girls yesterday we've never ended the season here in Columbia with a win," Dexter coach Chad Allen said. "Even though it's not the way we want to go out with third place, we wanted to do it for our two seniors. The girls stepped up today and did that."
Four different players combined to hit 8 of 14 free throws in the final 3 minutes to put Dexter (23-9) over the edge for good.
Carl Junction (27-4), meanwhile, couldn't find the bottom of the net, making just 1 of 8 from the field over that same period. The Lady Bulldogs shot 16 percent (11 of 66), including 1 of 12 from 3-point range, and committed 19 turnovers.
"It was a tough couple days for us because of two really good teams," Carl Junction coach Brad Shorter said. "I know shooting was one of our main struggles and defense on the other end had quite a bit to do with that. But our kids fought and showed that we belonged."
Just 5 minutes earlier it was the Lady Bearcats who couldn't score and let a 13-point lead slip down to seven at the start of the fourth quarter.
A pair of free-throws from Carl Junction's Megan Scott and a layup by Katie Scott trimmed it to three with 5 minutes 22 seconds to go.
Dexter junior Krysten Garrison pushed it back to five points with a layup at the 5:07 mark for the Lady Bearcats' first bucket of the fourth quarter. Car Junction answered with a jumper from Alex Vogt two minutes later but never got any closer.
"Once we got there I thought about burning a timeout because our kids were dead tired," Shorter said. "Our style of play is obviously quite a bit slower and we couldn't keep pace."
Dexter ended the game on a 10-2 swing led by senior Harley Allen, who had four during that stretch.
Garrison added Dexter's second and final fourth-quarter field goal and tacked on a free throw to put the game out of reach with 5 seconds left.
Garrison finished with a game-high 21 points and eight rebounds to lead Dexter, which shot 33.3 percent (13 of 39). Sophomore Chaylea Mosby finished with 11 points and three steals despite missing all of the fourth quarter with an ankle injury she sustained just before the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter.
Despite the absence of their team MVP, the Lady Bearcats rose to the occasion.
"Chaylea Mosby has been the backbone of our team all year and with her going down I just thought our girls really stepped up and played well," Allen said. "It's an ankle injury and hopefully it's just twisted, but we did miss her there, but down the stretch I thought we stepped up and made free throws when we needed to and they were huge."
Mosby was a key part of Dexter's success early in the game, which felt like the polar opposite of their start in the semifinals.
Mosby scored the first points of the game and made consecutive buckets in the final 28 seconds of the opening frame to give her team a 10-7 lead.
Dexter never trailed from that point on and hit the gas pedal in the second quarter.
Hannah Thurmon started a momentous run with a putback 30 seconds into the second which led to a 12-2 run.
"I thought today we really came out active defensively and really got after it," Allen said. "Our gameplan coming in was to put as much pressure on them as we could, try to make it an up and down game and I thought our girls did that."
Carl Junction turned the ball over six times in the second quarter, including four in a row at one point, and had 14 by halftime.
"We turned it over too muchand their pressure was solid," Shorter said. "I don't want to say we were nervous but we had a couple passes that I thought, "Wow, that wasn't close.' I think it was just a matter of their pressure and our kids not handling it real well in certain places."
Carl Junction made some adjustments, ending the half on an 8-4 run, and trailed 26-17 at the break.
Shooting woes haunted Dexter at the start of the third as Carl Junction chipped away with the first six points of the half to cut it to 26-23.
Garrison answered with a layin and Mosby followed with a 3 before she was injured after colliding with Carl Junction's 6-foot-2 junior forward Megan Scott during a drive to the hoop.
Even in her absence, Dexter maintained its lead and held off Carl Junction's final charge down the stretch to take third place for the first time in school history.
Dexter will return six juniors and six sophomores from this year's team with high hopes of making another run to the final four.
The win marks the end of an era for seniors Harley Allen and Cheyenne Mosby.
"It wasn't that great to not get first, but still, just to win and just leave it all out there on the court was great," Harley Allen said. "I'll never forget my time playing for my dad and all the great memories I've made with these girls."
The Dexter senior duo won 90 games in their high school career with the Lady Bearcats, helping them win three Lady Royals Christmas Classics, including their 17th this season, as well as their seventh straight district championship and third final four appearance in five years.
"I know both of these girls have been through some adversity with some injuries and they both worked so hard," coach Allen said. "I know they're going to do that in life and we're definitely going to miss them."
CARL JUNCTION (38) -- Emma Frack 3, Alex Vogt 13, Katie Scott 4, Megan Scott 15, Lauren Walker 3. FG 10 FT 17-23 F 26. (3-pointers: Frack 1. Fouled out: Scott, Walker).
DEXTER (47) -- Natalie Sitze 2, Hannah Thurmon 5, Krysten Garrison 21, Harley Allen 4, Chaylea Mosby 11, Rylee Allen 2, Megan Trout 2. FG 13 FT 19-34 F 19. (3-pointers: Mosby 2. Fouled out: none.)