SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team evened its record at 2-2 with a 65-57 win against the DeSoto Dragons on Saturday night at the Field House.
The Bulldogs, coming off an emotional 68-67 win against Dexter on Friday night, started slow against DeSoto but bounced back with strong second and third quarters to hold off the Dragons.
Sikeston has now defeated DeSoto five straight years.
It was the big win the Bulldogs needed heading into tonight's 7:00 game with New Madrid County Central in the first round of the Sikeston Invitational Tournament.
"I knew there was a potential for a letdown especially after our two emotional games this past week with Marion and Dexter," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "We were a little bit sluggish, our legs seemed heavy, but overall we gutted it out and did a decent job."
Despite DeSoto's starting frontline of 6-8, 6-7 and 6-7, and a 6-4 point guard, the Bulldogs were able to pound it inside to all-state forward Lontas McClinton.
McClinton recorded a game-high 27 points, with 19 coming in the second half. He was 11-of-13 from the field with seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots.
"He's tough -- if they can get him the ball, he's tough," said DeSoto head coach Allen Davis. "I don't know how you stop him."
DeSoto, playing its first game of the season, was without starting point guard Josh Aylesworth and shooting guard Mike Pecinovsky due to disciplinary reasons.
Without the two, Davis said his team couldn't solve the Bulldogs' defense.
"We knew it would be tough opening on the road, but the lack of execution is probably the key thing," said Davis. "Execution is about timing and I think their defense got us out of timing."
DeSoto grabbed an early 4-0 lead, but it quickly evaporated as McClinton capped a 7-0 run with a steal and slam dunk with 4:07 left in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs led 12-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Foul problems started to mount in the second quarter for Sikeston as the Dragons took a 20-18 lead with 3:33 left in the half.
But sophomore guard Marcus McCaster's 3-pointer started a 9-2 run for the Bulldogs to lead 27-22.
In just his third varsity game, McCaster scored a season-high 12 points.
"He's a very smart player -- he has the potential to be an outstanding shooter also," said Holifield. "Overall he's going to get better and better each game. He's really stepping his game up right now."
Late in the second quarter 6-7 forward Anthony Thebeau cut the lead to three, but Lavar Morgan sank a 28-foot 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 30-24 advantage.
The momentum carried over to the second half as the Bulldogs opened up a double-digit lead with 6:13 left in the third quarter on McClinton's conventional 3-point play.
The Bulldogs led 46-37 heading into the fourth quarter.
Sikeston led by as much as 11 points five different times in the fourth quarter with the last coming on Freddie Wiggins' two free throws with 17 seconds left.
Zeb Hammond's 3-pointer with 10 seconds left provided the final points of the game.
Sikeston hit an improved 18-of-23 free throws in the game, including 11-of-14 in the fourth quarter.
"We have good shooters and they're going to get better each game," said Holifield. "I'm very confident in our shooters going to the line."
Morgan had 13 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
DeSoto was led by Andy Sides' 16 points and six rebounds. Hammond and 6-foot-8 Tony Boyle had 13 points apiece while Thebeau added 12 points.
Despite the size advantage, DeSoto was out-rebounded by the Bulldogs 27-18.
"They're a good basketball team -- with a 6-8, 6-7, 6-7 frontline it presents problems," said Holifield. "By the end of the season they'll have an outstanding team I think. They'll have a legitimate chance of winning their district. The winner of our district will play the winner of their district. I think they have an outstanding shot at it."