Pictured is the Dexter Lady Bearcats varsity girls basketball team.
The Lady 'Cats have won four of the last five Class 4, District 1 titles up for grabs. Last season Dexter advanced to the quarterfinals before bowing out and in the 2008-09 season the Lady 'Cats were a Final Four team. Dexter lost to Farmington in sectional play in the other two district-title seasons.
"We definitely have experience coming back after these past two years," Dexter coach Chad Allen said. "We've got upperclassmen (two seniors), but we've still got a lot of things we've got to work on.
"Our schedule is a whole lot tougher," Allen continued. "Definitely the toughest schedule ever in the history of girls basketball here at Dexter. So with that said, we're definitely going to have to get better. Since we've toughened up our schedule so much, we got to get a lot better defensively and be more efficient offensively."
By toughing up the schedule, Allen hopes to avoid a repeat of the 2008-09 teams that went to the Final Four undefeated. That team lost it first game to Miller Career Academy, a team they had beat earlier, then played uninspired in a loss in the third-place game.
"With that group we had that went to the final four, our schedule just wasn't really tough back then," Allen noted. "I think with a tougher schedule it will help you prepare more for the playoffs. Hopefully it will pay off this year and help us out a lot."
The changes to the schedule are dramatic.
Dexter will again open at the always tough Farmington Tournament (Nov. 26-Dec-1), where they were seeded third last season and lost in the championship game to MCA. That tournament will be followed by a tournament in Paragould, Ark. (Dec. 6-8). Also new to the scheduled will be a game against Webster Groves (Class 5) at a neutral site in St. Louis, Park Hills Central, Carbondale (Ill.) High School at Charleston, Saxony Lutheran and Republic (neutral site in West Plains), the defending Class 4 state champions.
Even with the new opponents, there is still plenty of meat left over on the schedule with SEMO Conference schools like Poplar Bluff, Notre Dame Regional High School, Jackson, Cape Central, etc.
"Of course the Farmington tournament that we start off with is always really tough," Allen noted. "They got Miller Career Academy in there that beat us in the (state) quarterfinals last year. So hopefully we'll get a shot at them. Also we've added the tournament in Paragould, Ark. which is just as tough if not better than the one at Farmington. So we start off with two really tough tournaments.
"And we've added Republic who just won Class 4 in girls," he continued. "We've also added Webster Grove that we play in St. Louis. Carbondale, Ill. and we also added Park Hills, who we beat in sectionals and Saxony Lutheran. We added Saxony, but they'll be young this year but they will definitely be good in the future. They have a lot of good young players coming up so I thought it would be good to get them on the schedule. They'll be competitive this year."
The Dexter roster is intact from last season.
The Lady 'Cats return the SEMO Conference Co-Player of the Year in senior Brittany Harris (5'11). Harris was also an all-state selection, averaging 16.5 points per game and 9.3 rebounds per game. She also added 1.3 blocks while leading the Lady 'Cats to the Class 4 quarterfinals and a 23-7 record.
Dexter's other senior is point guard Katelyn Frazier. Six juniors make up the remainder of the roster. Five of them, Hannah Noe (first team SEMO All-Conference), Alison Jarrell (the team's leading 3-pointer shooter), Erika Cobb, Mollie Whitehead and Taylor Owens are all interchangeable at the guard or forward or positions. Paige Patterson (6'1) can play the center or forward positions.
"Really we're looking for big things out of all of them," Allen commented. "I hope all of them step up their game this year because we are definitely going to need that. Yes, Brittany had a great year last year and hopefully she'll have another great one this year. But hopefully overall everybody will step up and have a better season than they had last year.
"I think as the years have gone on they have been more vocal," Allen noted of his two seniors, the first seniors he's had in a couple of years. "They definitely have hit the weights hard. I think our seniors and juniors both have really gotten stronger. That has been our weakness in the past is our strength because we were so young. Now they are a lot stronger and that should help us out a lot."
The Lady Bearcats will again compete in Class 4, District 1, a tournament Dexter will host at the Bearcat Event Center. New to that district this year under the new alignment will be Cape Central (moving down from Class 5) and Kennett (moving up from Class 3). Rounding out the six-team district will be Notre Dame, Perryville and Sikeston.