After watching his team stumble to a 1-6 start this season, Bulldog head coach Gregg Holifield felt it was time for a change.
The change called for a youth movement.
So far so good as Sikeston defeated SEMO Conference foe Notre Dame 76-61 in overtime.
Notre Dame was able to force overtime when Bryce Willen buried an NBA range 3-pointer to tie the score at 59-59 with six seconds left.
Sikeston took control in the overtime and was able to make 11-of-12 free throws in the extra period to seal the victory.
"The Willen kid stepped up and hit a tough 25-footer," said Holifield. "It was a big shot for them and our kids could've laid down. But they really bounced back and showed some integrity and continued to work. We were able to build a nice lead in overtime."
Sikeston (2-6, 1-0 SEMO Conference) out-scored the Bulldogs 17-2 in the overtime period. Notre Dame's only basket came in the closing seconds after the game was in hand.
"I think when we hit that shot we got excited and our momentum picked up," said Notre Dame head coach Darrin Scott. "But when we came out in that overtime I just thought Sikeston executed a little bit better. We didn't handle that overtime situation real well. Hopefully we can learn from that. You don't want to go back to being a young team, but that had a lot to do with that."
But Sikeston is young too.
The most notable change Holifield made was moving sophomore Trey Spence up from the junior varsity.
It paid immediate dividends as the 6-foot-1 Spence scored a team-high 19 points with seven rebounds and four steals. He was clearly Sikeston's go-to player in the late stages of regulation, scoring 16 of his points in the second half.
"He can score around the basket and it takes a lot of pressure off," said Holifield. "He's done a great job on the jayvee so far and that's why we moved him up. He really contributed tonight."
Joe Lincoln, a freshman, who has been playing varsity ball since the Dexter game contributed 13 points with five rebounds and two steals.
Sophomore Kash Bratcher, who also was just moved up, added four points with three assists and a pair of steals.
The new additions to the varsity didn't look out of place at all as the Bulldogs played perhaps their most complete game of the year.
"We made some changes this week and we had a couple new players on the court for us from the junior varsity," said Holifield. "We're still trying to get in sync. We just have to pick our intensity up and work hard on the defensive end. At times we did that and we caused problems. We just have to continue to get better."
Sikeston led 12-11 after one quarter on Nate Thomas' buzzer beating 3-pointer.
Notre Dame (1-5, 0-2 SEMO) responded with 21 points in the second quarter to lead 32-29 at the half.
Sikeston came back with a strong defensive third quarter as they grabbed a 45-42 lead.
Late in the game Sikeston led 58-54 but couldn't seal the deal as Notre Dame closed the gap to two points.
Junior guard Marcus McCaster made 1-of-2 free throws with 10 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a 59-56 lead.
But Willen's long-range 3-pointer tied the score with six seconds left. McCaster got off a clean look for a potential game-winner but it was off the mark.
In the overtime, Notre Dame's shooting went cold and they turned the ball over on several occasions.
McCaster, who scored 15 points, was 6-for-6 from the foul line in overtime.
The good free throw shooting is something that Bulldog fans haven't been used to over the years.
"Marcus and Joe both are very good free throw shooters and late in games I feel like we're in great shape," said Holifield. "Kash stepped up and hit a couple big ones. It was just an overall team effort tonight."
Senior Freddie Wiggins scored eight points and continues to be a horse on the boards, grabbing 12 rebounds.
Sikeston had 10 different players reach the scoring column.
"They don't have a lot of size inside, but that's not a team that anybody's going to look forward to playing, no matter how good you are," said Scott. "The thing about them is they're athletic and they're going to get after you. But to be honest, we handled their pressure better than I thought we might."
Willen led all scorers with 25 points. John Eric Klein added 12 points.
Notre Dame received the No. 8 seed in the upcoming seMissourian Christmas Tournament.
Scott, whose team is the defending Class 3, District 1 champion, feels this year's will be up for grabs as well.
"I still feel that at the end of the year we'll have a chance to win the district if we keep improving," said Scott. "Sikeston obviously can win the district, Dexter can win it, Fredericktown's got a good team. I haven't seen the Ste. Gen and Perryville yet, but this may be a wide open district."
Sikeston's junior varsity improved to 7-1 on the season with a 52-39 victory against Notre Dame.
The team, playing its first game without Bratcher and Spence, struggled early, but had a big second half to pull out the win.
Trailing 22-20 at halftime, Sikeston out-scored Notre Dame 32-17 in the second half.
The Bulldogs were led by Rodriguez Moore's 14 points. Andrew Sales added 11 points with six rebounds and three steals. Freshman Julian Beard chipped in with 10 points, six assists, five steals and four rebounds.
B.J. Green had six points with three assists and two steals. Joel Nabors led the team with 11 rebounds and three steals.
Notre Dame was led by Abe Dirnberger and Chad Friend with nine points each.