SIKESTON - With the district tournament right around the corner, the Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team will try to get some momentum going when they host the Cape Central Tigers on Friday night at the Field House.
The Tigers enter the game with a 16-6 record and a 3-3 mark in the SEMO Conference.
Two of the team's three conference losses have been by one point.
So Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield knows his team will have its hands full on Friday night.
"I think they're an outstanding team," said Holifield. "They're very well-coached. They have a great inside-outside game and I think they're about as quick as any team we've seen all year. I've scouted them several times and I've been very impressed with them."
The Tigers are much improved from last year when the team went 4-21. Most of the team returned from last year, but the addition of 6-foot-8 transfer student Scott Chestnutt has put the team over the top.
The sophomore has dominated the SEMO Conference at times, putting up more than 30 points on a few occasions.
He is averaging 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game this year to lead the Tigers in both categories.
"He's just a good player," said Holifield. "He gets great position, he has good hands and he can finish around the basket. He's quite a player."
Chestnutt may have to carry the load even more as the Tigers are expected to be without two key players.
Junior forward Mitch Craft may be lost for the season with a broken ankle while junior Ryan Delph, who averages 16 points per game, is day-to-day with a sprained ankle.
"We'll be undermanned, no doubt about it, because we've got two starters out," said Cape Central head coach Derek McCord. "We're just going to try to come down and play hard for 32 minutes."
The Tigers fared well on Tuesday without Delph and Craft as they defeated Jackson on the road 68-53.
Chestnutt scored 24 points in the win while reserve guard Jay Ruark and Jake Knepp both scored career-highs with 11 and 16 points respectively.
"It's hard to tell which guys will step up," said McCord. "We've had different kids step up at different times."
One player that McCord calls his "most improved" is junior point guard Will Johnson, a cat-quick ball-handler that averages 10 points and six assists per game.
Six-foot senior Anthony Harris, who averages eight points and six rebounds per game, will start in place of Craft.
Seniors Willie Colon and Corey Bowman, junior Michael Brown and sophomore Eli Harris all look to get plenty of playing time.
"We try to utilize our bench, we play 10 to 11 every night," said McCord.
The Bulldogs (8-11, 2-3 SEMO Conference) have defeated the Tigers six straight times dating back to the 1998-99 season.
Sikeston is led by senior all-state forward Lontas McClinton, who averages 19 points and 10 rebounds per game.
Senior point guard Lavar Morgan follows up with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game.
The two are the main cogs in a senior dominated lineup for Sikeston.
"First of all they've got a lot of experience with six quality seniors," said McCord. "They've got tremendous athletes. Lontas McClinton is one of the best leapers in Southeast Missouri. Lavar Morgan is 6-3, 200 pounds and Ben Anderson is 6-7. They're just very big, quick and athletic."
Also starting will be seniors Michael Colon and Lawrence Davis.
But even with the Bulldogs' athleticism, Holifield thinks his team could potentially have some matchup problems.
"The thing that gives us problems with Cape Central is they have the 6-8 post player inside who causes lots of problems in there," said Holifield. "Plus on top of that, their guards are very quick. But we're similar in a lot of ways. We both have size, we both have quickness. There are comparable matchups at certain positions. So I think it's going to be a good game."