METROPOLIS, Ill. -- The Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team opened the 20th Annual Superman Classic on Monday with a 60-54 loss to Herrin, Ill., at Massac County High School in Metropolis.
Since winning the event in 1995, Monday's loss marked the eighth straight year that the Bulldogs have dropped their opening game in the tournament.
Sikeston plays Madison, Ill., tonight at 6:30 in the tournament, which is set up in a round-robin format this year due to having only six teams.
On Monday, the Bulldogs fell behind early and never could make the comeback against the defending Class A runner-up Tigers.
"We just couldn't quite get over the hump," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "We'd get it to one or two points. I think if we could've ever taken the lead then we could've been in a position to win the basketball game. But they're a very good basketball team. They were the runner-up in the state of Illinois last year and they have a lot of returning players. I knew it would be a tough game for us."
The Bulldogs (5-8), which trailed by as much as 10 in the game, cut the lead to 46-45 with 5:00 left in the game on a Lontas McClinton basket.
Herrin (14-4) responded with a 7-0 run to lead 53-45, but just a minute later, the Bulldogs had the lead back to 53-51 when Michael Colon scored inside with 3:27 left in the game.
But that was as close as the Bulldogs would get as the Tigers sealed the game from the charity stripe.
A Marcus McCaster 3-pointer with 47 seconds left made it 57-54, but Herrin's Nate Faulkenberry made three straight free throws to reach the final margin.
Foul problems hurt the Bulldogs as they committed 20 fouls to Herrin's eight on the night.
The Tigers made 12-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter and they were 17-of-22 for the game.
Brad Walker, a 6-2 senior, made 10-of-11 from the line on his way to a game-high 29 points.
"He's been playing well the last two weeks and he really played well tonight," said Herrin head coach Mike Mooneyham. "He's very capable of that. We hit some big free throws at the end and we took care of the ball pretty well. Walker knocked down the free throws and that was the difference in the game."
No other Herrin player reached double figures in the game. Standout Mike Gavic was held to seven points in the game.
"Gavic had an off-night tonight and we've been relying on him quite a bit," said Mooneyham. "They had a guy hanging around him all the time and they pretty much took him away."
The Bulldogs got down early but eventually took a 13-12 lead on a Nate Thomas conventional 3-point play with 39 seconds left in the quarter.
That was the last lead Sikeston would have as Herrin scored to lead 14-13 at the end of the quarter.
The Tigers heated up from 3-point range in the second quarter to open up a 30-22 lead at the half.
Herrin hit six 3-pointers in the first half coming from four different players.
The Bulldogs were able to contain the 3-point shooting in the second half, holding the Tigers to one.
"They really hurt us from the 3-point line in the first half," said Holifield. "But I thought we out-played them in the second half. We extended out more in the second half and tried to take the 3-point shot away. We played much better in the second half but we had a couple of turnovers that hurt us late in the game."
The Bulldogs out-scored the Tigers 32-30 in the second half but the first half lead was too much to overcome.
The Bulldogs were led by Lontas McClinton and Lavar Morgan's 15 points each.
McClinton was 7-of-10 from the field with eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Morgan added four rebounds and five assists.
"I knew (Sikeston was) quick," said Mooneyham. "They're very similar to Murphysboro which we play. I knew McClinton was a very good player and I knew No. 4 (Morgan) was a great player too. McClinton's pretty tough in there on both ends."
Colon added 10 points with five rebounds while Anderson had eight points with a team-high nine rebounds.
In Monday's other tournament game, Massac County defeated Caruthersville 89-78.