All season long, Dexter imposed its defensive will on opponents while earning the regional title.
On Saturday night, it was the Tigers who fell victim to a cohesive Winthrop defense, one that also sparked the Ramblers’ transition attack.
Winthrop scored nine unanswered points late in the third quarter amid a 12-2 run that helped it secure a 51-41 victory and win its second straight Class C boys state championship.
“That’s been our mentality all season and all throughout this tournament is defense,” Winthrop senior Cam Hachey said.
“We wanted to make them uncomfortable,” fellow senior Jevin Smith said of the Ramblers’ desire to cash in on transition chances.
Coach Todd MacArthur’s Ramblers capped a 21-1 season at the Augusta Civic Center while spoiling 21-1 Dexter’s bid for a perfect season.
“We’ll be mad about it for a day or two, but it’s hard to be disappointed about the year we’ve had,” Dexter coach Peter Murray said.
Cam Hachey hit four 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 16 points to lead Winthrop while fellow senior captains Jevin Smith (9 rebounds) and Ryan Baird (6 rebounds) tallied 13 points and 11 points, respectively.
The 6-foot-5 Baird was coming off a high ankle sprain that kept him out of the regional final, but he made his presence felt.
“The Smith kid had a big game,” Murray said. “We didn’t have a good matchup with him. When he got it near the basket, we had a hard time stopping him.”
Dexter was led by senior point guard Nathan Richards, who netted 13 points, and junior Brett Kuznierz contributed nine points and five rebounds. However, the Tigers could not effectively establish a consistent inside game.
“What I was concerned with coming in was their physicality,” Murray said. “We’re really similar in the way we’re made up, but they’re probably a little thicker at a couple of positions.”
Winthrop outrebounded Dexter 30-18.
The Ramblers regrouped in the second half after making 15 first-half turnovers that helped the Tigers go into the locker room leading 20-18 at halftime.
“We talked about settling down and playing about three ticks below what we were playing, playing composed,” MacArthur said.
Winthrop continued its full-court, man-to-man pressure and clogged the paint with its sagging defense while slowing down the Tigers’ offense. Dexter shot 8-for-28 (29 percent) in the second half, when the Ramblers also took much better care of the basketball.
Dexter led 27-25 after Richards snipped a 10-footer almost five minutes into the third period, but that’s when Winthrop made its move.
Ian Steel made two free throws, then Hachey hit an eight-footer in transition. Steel turned his steal into a layup, then Baird scored a fast-break layup on the front end of a conventional three-point play that staked the Rambers to a 34-27 lead with 46 seconds left in the quarter.
“I thought we made one more run than they did in that third quarter where we were able to transition, get some layups and also get one-and-dones and get the rebound and get our offense going,” MacArthur said, “and that was the difference in the game I thought, the end of the third quarter.”
Dexter never got closer than five points the rest of the way and transition hoops by Smith and Steel later ignited an 8-0 spurt that made it a 13-point game with 3:24 to play.
“I think they wore us down a little bit mentally,” Murray said.
“A couple calls didn’t go our way, we missed a couple of easy baskets and the next thing you know we’re down by eight or 10,” Murray said. “That’s not our game.”