KENNETT - It took nearly two months, but the Sikeston Bulldogs finally made it back to .500.
With a 48-40 road win on Friday night on the Kennett Indians' homecoming, the Bulldogs improved to 12-12 in their regular season finale.
Sikeston also finished 5-3 in the SEMO Conference. It's the best mark under head coach Gregg Holifield in his five years at the helm, tying Notre Dame for third place.
At its low point, Sikeston was 5-10 after the rugged Superman Classic January 25. The Bulldogs have now won seven of their last nine games.
"I knew at Christmas it was going to be a struggle, especially with the quality opponents that were left on our schedule," said Holifield. "We had our hands full, but we finally made it back to .500. That was our goal going into the district tournament. Now we just need to start a new season this week and do the best we can in the district tournament."
But Friday's game was no cakewalk.
Tied 37-37 heading into the fourth quarter, Sikeston's defense came alive.
The Bulldogs completely shut down the Kennett offense as they took a 48-37 lead.
Kennett (11-13, 1-7 SEMO Conference) finally broke the fourth quarter shutout on a Brian Mitchell free throw with 35 seconds remaining in the game.
The Indians scored their only field goal in the quarter on a Cody Robinson tip-in as the buzzer sounded.
"We went more to a zone-type defense," said Holifield. "We put a box-and-one on Tyree Goolsby and really took them out of their offense. They had trouble knocking some shots down. I thought our energy was much better in the second half, we covered the 3-point shooters and it worked out well for us."
Goolsby, after scoring 10 points in the first half, was limited to four points in the second half, including none in the fourth quarter.
"I thought it was anybody's game," said Kennett head coach Tim Turlington. "They went to the box-and-one on Tyree and we were still getting things out of our offense. But we just didn't hit our shots. We got a little tentative in our passing. We started getting a little too careful with the ball and that led to turnovers."
The Bulldogs were able to open up the lead in the fourth quarter as Lontas McClinton scored six points in the post while Ben Anderson chipped in four points.
"Sikeston went to their bread-and-butter offense, and that's the lob to McClinton, and he finished," said Turlington. "Man he's tough, he's as tough as any post player in this area. And I mean anybody. He's strong, physical, he wants the ball, and he wants to go to the hole when he gets the ball. He just overpowered us."
McClinton finished with a game-high 19 points with nine rebounds and two blocked shots.
Anderson had eight points with a career-high 14 rebounds, including eight in the first quarter.
"Ben really had a good game," said Holifield. "He was good defensively and he hit the boards. We would've had a difficult time winning tonight without him."
The Bulldogs fell behind early at 7-4, but they were able to take an 8-7 lead after one quarter.
The Bulldogs opened up a 17-12 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore guard Marcus McCaster, who finished with eight points and two assists.
Holifield also got big minutes out of junior guard Nate Thomas, who had no turnovers and had two assists with a steal.
"They really came in a played well and they didn't turn the basketball over," said Holifield. "Marcus knocked some big shots down and Nate did a great job of getting the ball into the post."
After McCaster's second 3-pointer, Kennett responded with an 8-0 run to lead 20-17.
The Bulldogs were able to fight back to get a 25-24 lead at halftime.
Sikeston opened up a 34-24 lead to start the third quarter, but once again, Kennett rallied, eventually tying the score at 37-37 heading into the fourth.
"I thought we played pretty good," said Turlington. "They're starting five seniors and I'm playing with four sophomores. I thought we gave a good account of ourselves tonight. They're just tough to play. I thought we were overmatched, but I thought we played well."
Kennett also got 10 points out of senior Brian Mitchell.
Sikeston's Lavar Morgan had 10 points with nine rebounds and three assists.
Sikeston will now set its sights on the Class 4, District 1 Tournament at Notre Dame High School.
Sikeston got the No. 3 seed and will play No. 6 Perryville on Tuesday at 7:45 p.m.
Kennett will play against New Madrid County Central in the Class 3, District 1 Tournament at Malden next Monday at 4:30 p.m.
The Sikeston JV team finished 15-7 on the season and 6-2 in the SEMO Conference with a 63-38 win against Kennett.
Sikeston led 19-12 after one quarter and 35-25 at the half.
The Bulldogs continued to pull away in the third quarter, leading 46-33. Sikeston out-scored Kennett 17-5 in the fourth to win going away.
Sikeston was led by Josh Alvarado's 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Apollo Patterson had 15 points, five rebounds and seven steals.
Brandon Williams had 10 points with four rebounds while Johnny Bland had six points and five rebounds.
Tyler Woodson had a season-high seven assists.
Aaron Taylor led Kennett with 10 points.