SIKESTON - Everything seemed to be going right for the Sikeston girls basketball team in the Class 3A, District 1 Tournament.
After all, the girls were playing in their first district championship ever and it was on their home court in front of a packed Sikeston Field House on Friday night.
But the Fredericktown Lady Blackcats spoiled the party, taking home the district trophy with a 49-41 victory over the Lady Bulldogs.
It's been so long since Sikeston's girls have had any kind of district success that nobody knows for sure when or if the Lady Bulldogs have ever been a playoff team.
But what is certain is that Friday night was special for Sikeston head coach Lee Brooks, who has been at the helm of the Lady Bulldogs for 10 years.
"This is the best season we've had," said Brooks. "This is the most wins (16) and these girls have made history. We've never been, as far as I know, to the district finals. The kids appreciate how much support we got. When we looked around the stadium tonight, it was overwhelming."
But the Lady Blackcats (20-7) handled the crowd and the Lady Bulldogs like seasoned veterans.
Fredericktown never trailed in the game, but they never could shake Sikeston.
The Lady Bulldogs (16-10) trimmed the lead to 44-39 with 53 seconds left on two Summer Ray free throws but they couldn't get it any closer, despite some shoddy free throw shooting (5-of-16 in the fourth quarter) by Fredericktown.
Sikeston trailed by as much as 42-30 early in the fourth quarter but the Lady Bulldogs went on a 9-2 run to make a game of it.
With it being his team's first finals appearance, Brooks thought his girls handled the situation pretty well.
"That's by far the biggest crowd we've played in front of," said Brooks. "And of course with it being a district game they put a lot more pressure on themselves. We had nothing to lose. We played hard. This was the first time we'd been there and maybe we were a little nervous."
Fredericktown jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start the game. Sikeston was able to cut the lead to 11-7 by quarter's end, but the Lady Blackcats had already established a tempo to their liking.
"I thought they came out with a great gameplan," said Brooks. "We started off slow and they came out quick. I thought they controlled the tempo all night."
Both teams began trading 3-point shots in the second quarter. The first four baskets of the quarter were from downtown.
Sikeston's Jennifer Medlin cut the lead to 14-13 on back-to-back 3-pointers with 6:56 left in the period.
But Fredericktown's Ashley Ward was even more deadly in the quarter, connecting on three treys to open up a 27-18 lead at halftime.
"We didn't look at them as a 3-shooting team," said Brooks. "Tonight we just didn't cover the corners like we should. We let them hit too many 3s."
The Lady Bulldogs got as close as five in the third quarter but Fredericktown pushed the lead back to 38-29 at the end of three.
Sikeston attempted to rally but the Lady Blackcats kept post players Joy Daniel and Kerri Jones, who combined for 31 points against Doniphan on Wednesday, bottled up all night. They combined for seven points on Friday while battling foul problems.
"I thought they covered and hacked Joy Daniel a lot, but that's my opinion," said Brooks. "We didn't get the calls but Joy has got to tough it up. That's going to happen. Our strategy was to get it to Joy and if she didn't shoot it then she could distribute it. And they kept the ball out of Joy's hands. They extended their defense farther out and we didn't penetrate like we should've."
Sikeston was led by Medlin's 19 points, including three 3-pointers.
"She was due and she had been down on herself -- she'd been in a slump," said Brooks. "She'll be back next year but on her final night she had a good game, and that's a positive."
Fredericktown was led by Nickey Tucker's 16 points and Megan Brown's 13. Ward followed up with 12 points, all on 3-pointers.
Sikeston will graduate three seniors in Summer Ray, Jaime Medlin and Tyrese Wims.
"Summer is a staunch leader," said Brooks. "She tells them what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. She's been the greatest leader I've ever had. She is what coaches look for, she is the floor general. Replacing Summer is going to be tough."
Ray finished with five points on Friday.
Medlin connected on a 3-pointer in the first quarter to account for her only points in the game.
"Jaime stepped up her game and I can't say enough about her," said Brooks. "She probably is the most improved player we had this year. Once she found out she wasn't a starter and had to come off the bench, she gave us every effort in every moment that she was out there. She really helped us win several of those last games."
She had eight points in Monday's first round victory over Perryville.
The rest of Sikeston's lineup returns, including starters Stephanie Clark, Jennifer Medlin, Jones and Daniel.
"The future is bright -- we're excited about it," said Brooks. "Tonight was a little setback but we'll be back. We accomplished a lot this year. When we first started I didn't think we'd do anything like this. We greatly exceeded expectations. I thought the fans responded so much. That is what we need for the girls program, that kind of support. We have a great program and we do really appreciate what the fans did tonight."