Pictured is the Dexter high school girls basketball program.
Dexter returns four senior starters off of last season's varsity squad that finished 26-5, placed first in the eight-team Paragould, Ark., Tournament, won the 16-team Lady Royals Classic, secured its third straight district title, and placed fourth at the Class 4 final four.
"We definitely feel good coming into this year," Dexter veteran coach Chad Allen, who has coached the Bearcats to the final four twice in the last decade, said. "These first couple weeks of practice we've been a little beat up and have a few injured and some health concerns as well. But other than that I'm excited and looking forward to having some games coming up."
Dexter's four senior starters are five-foot-nine guard Hannah Noe, five-foot-ten forward Alison Jarrell, five-foot-nine forward Erika Cobb and six-foot-one center Paige Patterson.
Dexter has no juniors on its roster, but dresses five sophomores: five-foot-nine forward Melanie McKuin, five-foot-five guard Dakota Reynolds, five-foot-nine center Ashlyn Werneck, five-foot-six guard Makayla Waldner and five-foot-eleven forward Karaline Keirsey.
"All four seniors started basically all of last year," Allen said of the roster. "Three of our sophomores have started some games. We've got a lot of experience coming back and we are definitely feeling good about this year."
Dexter will face the task of replacing a Division 1 player it lost to graduation. Six-foot center Brittany Harris set a new scoring record for Dexter this past season with 1,783 career points and finished her senior year averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. She is currently playing basketball at Southeast Missouri State University.
"Brittany was a great player for us last year and so far she is doing real well at SEMO," Allen said. "I hope she has continued success there and keeps on getting better. Without her this year I know we will be fine. Paige Patterson stepped up this summer and played extremely well and we've got other girls coming back with a lot of experience."
Dexter will have few cupcakes on its schedule this season.
The Bearcats will play its first 14 games on the road before hosting Kennett in its home opener on Jan. 13.
"Our schedule is as tough as it has ever been," Allen said. "It will definitely help prepare us come playoff time. We've got a lot of great teams in the beginning we are going up against."
Dexter opens its season Nov. 30 at St. Joseph's Academy.
Dexter will compete in two eight-team tournaments and a 16-team tournament in December.
The schedules have been released for both eight-team tournaments.
Dexter has received the top-seed in the Farmington Tournament and will play eighth-seeded Roosevelt on Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. in the first round of the three-round tournament. Other first round games include fourth-seeded Farmington vs. fifth-seeded Jackson Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m., third-seeded Notre Dame Cape Girardeau vs. sixth-seeded Notre Dame St. Louis Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. and second-seeded Miller Academy vs. seventh-seeded DeSoto Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m. The semifinals are slated for Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The championship will take place Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. Miller Career Academy beat Dexter 57-46 in the championship of the event last season.
Dexter will also play in the Paragould Tournament Dec. 12-14. The Bearcats beat Paragould 52-47 in the championship of the event last season.
First round pairing on Dec. 12 at Paragould are Poplar Bluff vs. Nettleton, Ark., at 4 p.m.; Dexter vs. Hughes, Ark., at 5:30 p.m.; Valley View, Ark., vs. Marmaduke, Ark., at 7 p.m. and Paragould vs. Jonesboro, Ark. at 8:30 p.m. Semifinals will take place Dec. 13 at 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and the championship is scheduled for Dec. 14 at 4:30 p.m.
Dexter will compete in the 16-team Lady Royals Classic Dec. 21-28. Seedings have yet to be released for the tournament. The Bearcats beat Neelyville 71-32 in the championship last season.
Allen identified Dexter's game against Rock Bridge in St. Louis, Mo., on Dec. 30 as a true challenge.
"Columbia Rock Bridge is really loaded," Allen said. "They've got six to seven Division 1 girls on their team and a couple of their seniors have already signed with the University of Kansas. One is going to play volleyball and one is going to play basketball there. They've also got a great point guard and a six-four post player. That will be a big test for us midway thought the year to see where we are at and what we need to work on."
Early indications suggest the Bearcats are ready to square off against juggernauts.
"We didn't do anything different this summer," Allen said. "We just played in our three Rib City Shootouts we normally play. The girls actually went undefeated this summer."
The Bearcats will begin its quest to return to postseason play when it competes in Class 4, District 1, at Cape Central Mar. 3-7. Cape Central, Kennett, Notre Dame, Perryville and Sikeston also compete in the six-team district.
Dexter sneaked past Notre Dame 48-46 in last season's district title game before beating North County 71-33 in a state sectional and Rosati-Kain 64-43 in a state quarterfinal to advance to the final four.
"They definitely want to go back," Allen said. "They are hungry and I know they will pull together throughout the course of this year and keep getting better. Hopefully, we can make it again."
11/30 - at St. Joseph's Academy
2/2-2/7 - Farmington Tournament
2/12-2/14 - Paragould Tournament
2/19 - at NMCC
2/21-2/28 - Lady Royals Classic Trn.
2/30 - Rock Bridge at St. Louis
1/9 - at Farmington
1/13 - Kennett
1/16 - Neelyville
1/18 - at Dyersburg
1/20 - Park Hills Central
2/4 - Saxony Lutheran
2/6 - at Naylor
2/10 - at Notre Dame
2/13 - Cape Central
2/17 - Poplar Bluff
2/20 - at Twin Rivers
2/24 - Jackson
2/27 - Sikeston
3/3-3/7 - District Tournament at Cape Central