Dexter preparing for Vashon

Thursday, March 11, 2004

COLUMBIA - It's the ultimate underdog story.

The Dexter Bearcats (23-6) make the state semifinals for the first time in school history and in their way stands a nationally ranked, undefeated state powerhouse.

However, it is more than just an undefeated team in their way; it is a team steeped in tradition -- the Vashon Wolverines, one of the most stories programs in the state of Missouri.

This season marks the 20th time Vashon has been in the final four and they are seeking their 10th state title.

"I think the biggest thing for us will be getting over the environment and the idea of playing Vashon," said Dexter coach Eric Sitze. "Hopefully once the ball gets thrown up in the air we'll forget about all of that and just play basketball."

Once the ball is tipped Friday afternoon at 12:25 the Bearcats will have to stop a potent offense that averages over 72 points a game.

Leading the way for the Wolverines is point guard Dwayne Polk, a candidate for Mr. Missouri Basketball.

The 5-9 senior averages 14 points per game and nearly five assists per game. The only other Vashon player to average in double figures is 6-10, 230-pound center Curtis Muse at just over 11 points and 10 rebounds per game.

"They can do a lot of things," Sitze said. "They're very athletic. They can run the floor and they can be patient. They jump well."

Dexter will counter with 6-6 center Derek Demaree who averages 19 points a game and can extend the Wolverine defense with his 3-point shooting.

Josh Miller, a 5-10 guard, averages just under 16 points per game and will be vital in handling the ball against a tough pressure defense used by the Wolverines.

Sitze said a key for Dexter in the game will be controlling the boards, something the Bearcats have done in the playoffs.

"We're just going to have to go out and try to limit them to as few shots as we can and try not to turn the ball over too much," Sitze said.

In the last month the Bearcats have been carried by their full-court press which forces many turnovers and also is used to tire their opponents. However, unlike teams Dexter has played recently, Vashon has a deep bench and a heavily recruited point guard in Polk.

"We may have to adjust how we approach them on defense," Sitze said. "The biggest key will be to give up just one shot."

One thing Dexter will have to rely on is their shooting which has let them down a bit in the playoffs.

After averaging 80 points per game in the district tournament and shooting 52 percent through the season, Dexter has averaged just 54 points per game in their last two outings with a low shooting percentage.

"Hopefully we'll shoot the ball a little bit better," Sitze said. "Hopefully we'll relax a little bit knowing that we made it and just try to go out there and have fun."

Game time may not come soon enough for the Bearcats as the Dexter community is in a frenzy over their first appearance in the Show-Me Showdown.

"It's different," Sitze said of his team's approach this week. "It's hard to focus. There's a lot of things going on and people are real excited about it. It's just hard to focus and concentrate on what we need to get done. But (the players) are handling it okay. They know what they're up against."

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