BANGOR, Maine — The Dexter boys basketball team focused on two fundamentals — transition defense and limiting turnovers — in preparation for Tuesday night’s Class C quarterfinal against Lee Academy.
And for a time, practice nearly made perfect.
Coach Peter Murray’s fifth-seeded Tigers played a near-flawless first half to take control, then used a 10-of-10 free-throw shooting performance from senior forward Jason Campbell to help clinch a 58-45 victory.
Dexter (14-5) will face top-ranked and defending state champion George Stevens Academy of Blue Hill in Friday’s semifinals. GSA beat No. 8 Woodland in the late game 72-31.
Lee finished with a 14-5 record.
Campbell scored a career-high 24 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots to lead Dexter statistically as he attacked the rim both with his own drives and by grabbing offensive rebounds.
“I usually shoot more threes than I did today,” he said, “but I wasn’t feeling it so I worked my inside game and drew fouls and got to the free-throw line.”
When Campbell went to the line he made the Pandas pay, converting all eight of his tries during the fourth quarter.
“He picked the right time to have his best game of the year,” said Murray. “The foul line’s been a bit of an issue for us this year and he’s 10-for-10 tonight. Obviously it was huge in helping us keep our lead.”
Senior forward Brayden Miller added 16 points for the Tigers, 11 during a first half when Dexter efficiently moved the ball around and committed only three turnovers, to generate high-percentage shots en route to a 30-17 lead.
Another Dexter senior, point forward Zach White, scored just two points but contributed seven assists as the hub of the Tigers’ half-court offense as well as drawing three player-control fouls from Lee on defense.
“He’s our biggest playmaker,” said Campbell. “He always knows where we are on the court and where to pass it, and teams usually double-team him so it leaves one of us open. When we cut to the basket, he knows where we are, he dishes it and we score.”
White’s defensive effort was part of Dexter’s commitment to prevent Lee Academy from getting its high-scoring offense untracked — and the Tigers were largely successful save for a brief period during the second half when the Pandas cut a 47-29 deficit to 49-41 on a three-point play by guard Tony Chu with 4:09 left in the game.
But Dexter held Lee scoreless for the next two minutes while making seven of 10 free throws to put the game away.
“That’s what we’d been talking about and practicing the last two or three days — transition defense and not turning the ball over,” said Murray. “Those were the keys to the game.”
Chu led Lee with 18 points while Nathan Gilman added 13.