AUGUSTA — Style points? Those are overrated. Besides, doesn’t a Gold Ball look gorgeous no matter how you play? Just ask the Dexter girls basketball team.

Despite scoring only two field goals after the midway point of the third quarter, Dexter still held off Hall-Dale 48-41 to win the Class C championship Saturday night at a packed Augusta Civic Center.

Hannah Dean scored 18 points for the Tigers (21-1), who won their first Gold Ball since 2006 and were the top seed out of Class C North. Teammate Cally Gudroe added 15 points and Mazie Peach 13.

Dexter’s field goal shooting may have been virtually nonexistent after the second half, but the Tigers’ free throw work was virtually flawless; they were 19-for-24 from the line for the night and 9-for-10 in the game’s final 3:35. Abilene Corson was 6-for-6.

“If that’s what the number was, that’s huge,” Dexter coach Jody Grant said. “If you’re going to win a close game, you’ve got to make free throws. Nineteen free throws gives you the separation you need to win a close game.”

Peach, who chipped in with three free throws, said her team always works on situation shots, with penalties if someone misses a shot.  

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Dexter celebrates after beating Hall-Dale in the Class C girls basketball championship Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“Even though we always dreaded those down-and-backs after we missed, they helped us get into a grove and helped us have pressure when it comes to shooting foul shots,” said Peach, clutching the Gold Ball as she spoke. 

Hall-Dale coach Laurie Rowe was not available for comment after the game. Jade Graham scored 17 points for Hall-Dale (20-2), which won the Class C title in 2022 and won the C South crown as a No. 2 seed this year.

Dexter plays a very deliberate style of basketball. The Tigers pass the ball around and around and wait for the right player in the right spot. The method may not win style points, but it’s not about taking the most shots; it’s about taking the right shots.

“We don’t play slow; we look for our best shot and our most open player and just the right thing to do,” said Peach, the 6-foot-2 forward who led the team with nine rebounds. She scored Dexter’s only field goal of the fourth quarter — a layup at the final buzzer.

“Sometimes It might look like stall ball and that we’re taking our time, but really, we’re just looking for the best open shot,” Peach added. 

After a back-and-forth first quarter, Dexter took a 24-20 lead into halftime as Gudroe sank eight points, including a 3-pointer that gave her team the lead with 6:52 left in the second. Graham scored all seven Hall-Dale points in the period.

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In the third, Dexter took a 30-25 advantage on a Gudroe jumper. Hall-Dale knotted the game on Graham’s third 3-pointer of the game, which followed one of teammate Torie Tibbetts’ five steals. But that was when Dexter’s free-throw frenzy started, as Dean and Corson sank two apiece to make it a 34-30 game. Gudroe’s drive up the lane with nine seconds left gave Dexter a 36-31 lead after three.

Hall-Dale’s Torie Tibbetts, center, is swarmed by Dexter defenders Desiree Adams (10), Mazie Peach (32) and Cally Gudroe (3) during the Class C girls basketball championship Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Although Hall-Dale held Dexter without a field goal in the fourth until Gudroe’s layup at the end, the Bulldogs could not take advantage. Marie Benoit’s 3-pointer with 4:44 left cut the deficit to 37-36, but Dexter converted its next nine free throws. Corson sank four straight as part of a 6-for-6 night, while Gudroe sank three and Dean two.

“We concentrate on next play, next play, next play,” Grant said. “Sometimes when you’re turning it over a little bit (Dexter made 12 turnovers to Hall-Dale’s eight), you just try to go back on defense, get a rebound, just try to stay at them.”

Neither team is about having a big scorer; both have a different leading scorer in each of their regional playoff victories. For Grant, that’s no accident. 

“We try to care about each other more than yourself,” said Grant, whose players wore T-shirts bearing the legend “WE>ME” on the back. “For that to be rewarded tonight is a tremendous tip of the cap to the 14 kids that are in that locker room.”

Added Peach: “The key to the team is we love each other. We don’t always agree, and rules go back and forth, but when it comes down to it, we are together, and that helps our defense and executing.” 

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