The Bulldogs were riding an eight-game winning streak on the Mules' home floor dating back to Feb. of 1993, last losing to Poplar Bluff in the district tournament.
Poplar Bluff was riding a 16-game winning streak at Peters Gymnasium dating back to Feb. 2001, last losing to Sikeston in the regular season.
Something had to give.
And this time it's Sikeston's streak that is over as the Mules pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 77-58 win.
It's the second time the Mules have defeated the Bulldogs this year, also winning 52-48 in the Sikeston Tournament in December.
Only this time, the game was played in front of a near capacity crowd at Peters Gymnasium numbering more than 2,000 intense fans.
The Bulldogs (8-11, 2-3 SEMO Conference) never led in the game, but they never went away either.
In a physical, adrenaline-filled game which saw a bloody broken nose, an eye gouge, and plenty of flying bodies and elbows, the contest might have resembled a wrestling match.
"Sikeston's always a tough opponent, they're always physical and strong," said Poplar Bluff head coach John David Pattillo. "They're going to play great defense. And they just make you play ways you don't want to play. There were times tonight we played ways I didn't want us to play."
There were 45 fouls called and the two teams combined for 61 free throws.
Problem for Sikeston was the Mules were able to connect on theirs' making 26-of-34.
Sikeston, meanwhile, can point to its paltry 10-of-27 free throw shooting as an obvious contributing factor to the loss.
"We just didn't shoot free throws well tonight," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "If we could've knocked down a few more shots and hit a few more free throws we would've been in good shape."
Although trailing 63-54 with just under three minutes remaining, the Bulldogs had momentum going.
Sikeston's Lontas McClinton came up with a steal and dished off to Lavar Morgan who scored the layup and appeared to be undercut on the play.
Instead of a conventional 3-point play, a charge was called on Morgan, his fifth personal, and the basket was waved off.
"It was a tough call, but that's part of the game -- that just happens," said Holifield.
All of a sudden, a game that could've been six points, got ugly in the final 2:45 of the contest.
The Bulldogs' depth had worn thin as three players had fouled out and Michael Colon was on the bench with a bloody nose.
The Mules (21-1, 5-0 SEMO) took full advantage as they ended the game on a 14-4 run. The 19-point margin of the final score marked the Mules' biggest lead of the game.
"I thought we played well at times, but Bluff's just an outstanding team," said Holifield. "Coach (John David) Pattillo has done a great job at Poplar Bluff. They play as good a defense as any team we go against. They're hard-nosed and tough. I have a tremendous amount of respect for coach and his team and I think they're going to do very well down the stretch."
The game also pitted arguably the top two players in Southeast Missouri head-to-head in McClinton and the Mules' sophomore Tyler Hansbrough.
Although the two didn't guard each other, they were both dominant.
McClinton scored a game-high 28 points with nine rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots.
"You throw Lontas in there -- sometimes he's so dominant," said Pattillo. "We were going to platoon people on him down there. I just didn't want to put Tyler on him and get him in foul trouble. I thought Cheron (Pearson), Devon (Brown) and Glen Yandell all did an adequate job on him. He's just going to be a good player and he's going to score."
The 6-foot-8 Hansbrough had a team-high 26 points on 7-of-11 shooting with 15 rebounds and four crowd-pleasing slams. He was also 12-of-13 from the free throw line.
Sikeston's lone chance at slowing him down, 6-7, 235-pound Ben Anderson, battled foul problems from the outset and didn't get much playing time.
"He's an outstanding player, he's a big body and he's very well skilled," said Holifield of Hansbrough. "I'm impressed with their entire team though. I think they have a great chance of advancing on this season."
The Mules raced out to a 15-6 lead in the first quarter after a Tony Webb 3-pointer with 1:50 left.
McClinton hit two free throws to get the lead to 15-8 at the end of the quarter.
The Mules led by as much as 28-14 with three minutes left in the second quarter and appeared to be running away with the game.
But the Bulldogs caught fire.
Morgan and Marcus McCaster both hit 3-pointers and McClinton scored a pair of baskets, including one when he stole the inbounds pass, to cut the lead to 28-24, capping a 10-0 run.
Both teams traded free throws in the final four seconds to make the halftime score 30-26.
Both teams started the third quarter trading baskets. But a McClinton 3-pointer cut the lead to 36-33 with 5:34 left.
McClinton cut the lead to 36-35 when he scored and was fouled with 4:25 left in the quarter.
He missed the free throw but Bulldog guard Lawrence Davis rebounded the miss and was fouled on the shot.
He missed both of his attempts, and the Bulldogs never could get the lead.
On the Mules' ensuing possession, Anthony Gilberto buried a 3-pointer from the left corner.
The Bulldogs never seemed to recover as the Mules ended up leading 51-40 heading into the final frame.
Hansbrough scored 14 of his points in the third quarter.
"On the road like that you've got to keep it at a five or six point game," said Holifield. "We weren't able to do that and that's where they pulled away and really won the game at that point in time."
The Mules were able to lead by as much as 13 early in the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs didn't quit.
A Colon basket with 4:17 left in the game cut the lead to 58-51 giving the Bulldogs some hope for a comeback.
But back-to-back baskets by Hansbrough and Desi Higgs opened up the lead again.
Sikeston never got closer than nine the rest of the way.
In an effort to contain McClinton, Pattillo went to a rarely used zone defense late in the game which proved to be effective.
"I think I've played around 10 possessions of zone this year and I probably played 15 tonight," said Pattillo. "And it was just solely to make them slow down and not go directly to him. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it wasn't real good. But I think we did enough to make them change their flow."
Morgan had 12 points, four rebounds and two steals.
Colon added eight points and six rebounds while Davis grabbed eight rebounds with three assists.
The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Mules as a team 31-26.
Webb had 15 points with six assists and two steals. Higgs added 10 points with four assists.
"It's two teams that play very similar -- hard-nosed and aggressive," said Holifield. "I was proud of our entire team, I thought they battled, never quit and kept working. I don't know if the fans got their money's worth, but both teams battled hard."
The Mules will play at Vashon on Feb. 15. Sikeston will host Oran on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The Sikeston jayvee team fell to 10-6 on the season and 3-2 in the SEMO Conference with a 61-38 loss to Poplar Bluff.
The Mules (15-3, 5-1 SEMO) controlled the game in every phase, taking a 21-9 lead after one quarter and a 34-20 lead at the half.
They extended the lead to 49-31 heading into the fourth quarter.
Sikeston was led by Apollo Patterson's 11 points. Matt Limbaugh had five rebounds and five assists.
Poplar Bluff was led by Brad Chronister's 16 points. Clay Lawson had 12 and Mark Gum had 10 points.