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Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016

Bulldog comeback falls short

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Sikeston's Michael Colon, right, and Charleston's Deshaundray Hamilton fight for a loose ball.
SIKESTON - The 31st Annual Sikeston Invitational Tournament came to a close on Friday night at the Field House.

As expected, top-seeded Poplar Bluff captured their first SIT championship since 1988 with an 84-59 victory against No. 3 Blytheville.

It had been so long since the last championship for Poplar Bluff that head coach John David Pattillo wasn't sure if the school had ever won an SIT title.

"We did win one huh?" said Pattillo. "I thought it may be our first ever Sikeston Invitational win. It feels good. We came over here with that goal in mind."

Second-seeded Charleston won the third place game with a 68-61 win against fourth-seeded Sikeston.

The consolation championship was canceled due to the weather.

The Bluejays, coming off a heartbreaking 62-60 overtime loss to Blytheville, withstood a late Sikeston rally to capture third place.

Charleston led 51-41 entering the fourth quarter but the Bulldogs made a run. Sikeston's Lavar Morgan cut the gap to 59-58 with a 3-pointer with 3:08 left in the game, but that was as close as the Bulldogs would get.

The Bluejays hit seven free throws in the final 2:54 to pull out the win.

"I was happy that we responded," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "I was afraid that we would mope all day, because they were hurt. They wanted to be in the championship game. But we got it together and we responded."

The Bluejays (4-2) hit a season-high five 3-pointers while making 15-of-21 from the free throw line.

It was that kind of shooting that the team lacked against Blytheville.

"That's what we didn't do last night," said Farmer. "If we could just consistently play the way we played tonight, we'd be tough."

It was Charleston's defense on Sikeston all-state forward Lontas McClinton in the second half that was probably the deciding factor.

With a front line of 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-6, the Bluejays double and sometimes triple-teamed McClinton in the post.

"We went to the 2-1-2 just to try to contain him," said Farmer. "We wanted to keep a guy in front of him and keep one behind him trying to stop the lob. But he just springs right up over anybody. Lontas is a great player. I watched the Bluff game, I saw people putting bodies on him. You just can't stop him. In my opinion he's the best player in Southeast Missouri."

McClinton still scored a game-high 24 points, but had only six in the second half.

"They really surrounded him -- they did a good job of trying to take him out of the offense," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "They had a couple of big guys on him down there. But he continued to work, he hit some difficult shots and I thought he played well."

The Bluejays got a big game out of 6-6 sophomore Ashton Farmer, who had a season-high 23 points, including two 3-pointers.

"He's such a great talent," said Holifield. "He's an outstanding player and he's just going to get better. He's still young, his potential is unlimited. He has a soft touch, he's long-armed and he's under control. I'm very impressed with him."

Sikeston led 17-15 after one quarter of play. That was the last time Sikeston would lead in the game.

The score was tied in the second quarter twice, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Farmer and Joshua Strayhorn opened up a 27-19 lead for the Bluejays.

The Bulldogs (3-4) were able to get the margin back to one point when McClinton hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with four seconds left to make it 32-31 heading into halftime.

In the third quarter, the Bulldogs had the lead back to one when Michael Colon hit two free throws with 5:34 left in the period.

But Charleston responded with an 11-2 run to lead 49-39 on a Marcus Biles 3-pointer.

The Bulldogs quickly closed the gap in the fourth quarter as they had the lead down to two and one point three different times, but they never could get over the hump.

"I thought we were a little sluggish," said Holifield. "We were standing, we weren't in the position we needed to be in. We just need practice time to adjust that. Our energy level wasn't where it needed to be tonight, especially on the defensive end."

Sikeston's Lawrence Davis scored nine of his season-high 13 points in the fourth quarter. He also had three rebounds, five assists and two steals.

"I thought Lawrence really played well," said Holifield. "He was very focused, he was doing a good job of getting into the lane. That's how we have to play against a zone. When we're doing that, we're a pretty good team."

Lavar Morgan added 14 points, five rebounds and four assists for the Bulldogs.

"It's always a barnburner," said Farmer of playing Sikeston. "For some reason or another, we play each other tough. It's always a game worth watching. I know most of the kids, they're all just good kids. It's a good game and great sportsmanship."

Charleston also had big games out of Biles with 14 points, Gant with 13 points and Trentez Lane with 10.

"They're an outstanding team," said Holifield. "They're very talented, they may be the most talented team in Southeast Missouri. I thought they played very well, they hit their shots, you have to give them a lot of credit."

Sikeston will travel to play Farmington on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Charleston will host Meridian (Ill.) on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

The Mules raced out to an early lead on the Chickasaws and were never threatened.

Poplar Bluff (6-0) led 22-15 after one quarter and opened up a 39-22 lead in the second quarter before Blytheville was able to trim the lead to 39-29 by halftime.

Blytheville (4-3) never got closer than 13 the rest of the way.

The Mules led 59-45 at the end of the third quarter.

They turned the game into a blowout in the fourth quarter, leading by as much as 28 at one point.

"It wasn't very easy because we stayed at that 10-to-16 point range for a long time -- we never extended it," said Pattillo. "Finally we started extending it, everybody spread out and we shot it well. I thought the Sikeston game really tested us and pushed us a little bit."

The Mules rallied to defeat Sikeston 52-48 in the semifinals on Tuesday, giving the team plenty of rest for Friday.

Blytheville, which won an emotional game with Charleston late Thursday night, seemed drained.

Blytheville head coach David Hixson didn't want to use that as an excuse though.

"You don't want to use that as a crutch, we got beat by a good basketball team," said Hixson. "They're awful potent, they've got a little bit of everything. But knowing we were a little bit taxed, they came out and did what they do well. They ran the ball. They got a lot of points off transition. They had a great gameplan."

The Mules made an astounding 28-of-30 free throws in the game. Tyler Hansbrough, the Mules' 6-8 sophomore, made 14-of-15 from the line for a game-high 26 points.

"You just can't let him touch it as much," said Hixson. "He's a phenomenal player for a sophomore. He's very aware, anytime you go to the free throw line (15) times, you're a smart basketball player."

Cheron Pearson followed up with 13 points while Desi Higgs had 11. In all, 11 different players scored for the Mules.

"We knew if it got into a high scoring game, that's not our forte," said Hixson. "Not with this bunch, we just don't have the depth that they probably have. We knew what they were going to do, they just do it well. I thought we were a step slow in reacting."

The Chickasaws were led by Daniel Smith's 19 points. Demarcus Luster added 11.

Poplar Bluff and Blytheville will square off again on Monday in the Mules' home opener at 6 p.m.