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Saturday, Sep. 20, 2014

SHS stuns Blytheville on Bratcher's bomb

Sunday, December 12, 2004

(Photo)
Sikeston senior Josh Alvarado (top) holds the first place plaque.
SIKESTON - In one of the most stunning upsets in the 33-year history of the Sikeston Invitational Tournament, the Sikeston Bulldogs knocked off heavily favored Blytheville 55-52 on Friday night at the Sikeston Field House.

It marks the first SIT championship for the Bulldogs since 1994, when they also defeated Blytheville.

It was Sikeston's first championship game appearance since 1998, which was also the last time Blytheville captured first place in the tournament.

In other games Friday night, Charleston took third place with a 67-56 win against New Madrid County Central.

Osceola took fifth place with a 63-30 win against the Sikeston junior varsity.

(Photo)
Sikeston's Kash Brasher is carried on the players' shoulders after sinking the game-winning shot.
But the story of the night was Sikeston's championship victory, which came in thrilling fashion.

Sikeston junior point guard Kash Bratcher provided the heroics as he nailed a 35-foot, buzzer-beating 3-pointer to win the game.

The shot set off a wild celebration among the Bulldog players and fans that hasn't been seen at the Field House since clinching their last district championship in 2000.

Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said it wasn't necessarily the shot he had wanted from Bratcher, but once the ball was in the air he liked his team's chances.

"I was trying to get a ball screen for him to run off of and shoot or penetrate and get in there for a free throw line jumper or dish off to a post guy," said Holifield. "But they gave him space. He's going to back up and shoot that. I've watched him every day and he can make those shots. He was feeling it and when he shot the basketball, I felt pretty good about it."

(Photo)
Charleston's Ashton Farmer (32) looks to pass as NMCC's Jeffery McFarland defends.
Bratcher's shot capped what was one of the most incredible shooting displays in school history in the fourth quarter. The 5-foot-7 guard made six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to account for all 18 of his points.

And with each 3-pointer, his range kept increasing to where he was eventually shooting, and making, 25-footers.

He was 6-of-7 from downtown in the fourth quarter.

"He was getting open looks, and I'm going to tell you something, if he gets open looks he's a great shooter and he has unbelievable range," said Holifield. "A lot of people will look at that as really bad shots, but with Kash they are high percentage 3s. He shot 45 percent from the 3-point line last year which is outstanding and he is very capable of knocking down long distance shots."

But the Bulldog comeback started long before the 3-point barrage.

Sikeston (3-2) fell behind 19-7 after one quarter of play and appeared to be on the verge of getting blown out by the much bigger and talented Chickasaw squad.

But the Bulldogs continued to hang around through the second quarter, cutting the lead to 29-19 at halftime.

The Bulldogs had played tough against the team that defeated them 59-37 on Nov. 30, but they showed no signs of being able to mount a comeback.

But in the third quarter Sikeston started to make a dent, coupled with more foul problems that haunted the Chickasaws one night earlier against Charleston.

Star forward John Fowler and forward Roosevelt Jackson each went to the bench with their fourth fouls in the third quarter and Sikeston took advantage.

The Bulldogs out-scored Blytheville 14-8 in the third quarter to cut the lead to 37-33 heading into the fourth.

"Our goal was to keep it within 10 at halftime and keep it close going into the fourth quarter and everything played right into our hands," said Holifield. "And then with about three or four minutes to go we finally took the lead."

It started with Bratcher's unconscious shooting. He started the quarter with a trey only to see the Chickasaws score five unanswered to extend the lead back to six points.

But Bratcher answered with back-to-back 3-pointers in a 30-second span to tie the game for the first time at 42-42 with 4:09 left in the game.

The Chickasaws got the lead back up to four points on a Sam Black 3-pointer but Bratcher answered with another longball to cut the lead to one.

"When he started to heat up I called two timeouts just to address guarding (Bratcher)," said Blytheville coach David Hixson. "I knew he had that ability -- I've seen him do that before. But we gave him too much room every time."

The Bulldogs took their first lead of the game when Bratcher stole the ball and fed junior Rod Moore for a transition layup to lead 47-46 with 2:09 remaining.

Fowler put the Chickasaws back on top with two free throws, but another Bratcher 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 50-48 lead with 1:18 left.

After baskets were exchanged, Fowler tied the score with 20 seconds left with an inside bucket setting up Bratcher's final shot.

Bratcher dribbled across halfcourt with time winding down and appeared ready to drive, but the Chickasaw defender backed off enough for Bratcher to launch the final high-arcing shot with five seconds left.

It fell through the net with just under two seconds remaining but Blytheville couldn't get the ball inbounds in time for a final heave.

"We had the odds against us, no doubt about it," said Holifield. "We have a lot of inexperience on the court and we're not very big. But we make up for it I feel like with effort, desire and heart. If you have those things going for you anything can happen. I just feel like we're going to keep working hard and we're going to get better and better."

Bratcher also had seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Moore followed up with 14 points.

Overshadowed by Bratcher's shooting was the Bulldog defense against the Chickasaws as they were held to 33 points over the final three quarters.

"We really did a good job of pressuring the ball at times and then falling back into a zone," said Holifield. "In the second half we out-rebounded them. We got on the boards, which is a bit of a surprise. We were aggressive and we hit the boards hard. Plus we took about four or five charges and those were big plays. It kept them from barreling in there and out-manning us."

The Bulldogs had 30 rebounds on the night. Blytheville's totals were not available at press time.

Blytheville (5-1) was led by Black's 12 points, coming on four 3-pointers. Fowler was held to 10 points while 6-foot-4 junior Chris Echols added 10 points.

Fowler had 23 points in the first meeting against the Bulldogs.

"It's disappointing for us," said Hixson. "We were focused all week on winning this tournament and we had a chance to put them away in the first half and didn't do it. We talked all week about this tournament and we came up short again. My hat's off to Sikeston. They play very hard and they wanted this game more than we did."

Blytheville has now reached the finals of the SIT twice since 1998 only to come up short.

For Sikeston, it's a gratifying win in a tournament they haven't even won two games in since 2000.

Holifield's first year as the head coach, the 1998-99 season, was the last time the Bulldogs had been to the finals.

"We've had some good teams since I've been here and we've never won a championship," said Holifield. "Just to get the championship game was big, but this is the first time we've won it since 1994. Coach (Fred) Johnson had a great team that year. It's a big win. We have a lot of inexperience on the court. I'm really proud of our players. They've worked hard every day in practice with a great attitude. The other night against Dexter (a 48-46 loss) they were really upset after that game and they learned from that situation and tonight we were able to build on that.

"We're going to have some ups and downs because we're young. We just have to keep working and get better. Our players are learning every day and they want to win and they want to compete."

Sikeston will travel to Farmington on Tuesday at 6 p.m. They will host Notre Dame next Friday for their last game going into Christmas break.

The Charleston Bluejays used a combination of size and quickness to overwhelm New Madrid County Central (1-4) in the third place game, winning 67-56.

Charleston all-stater Ashton Farmer had a game- and season-high 28 points on the night.

"Ashton's really talented," said NMCC head coach Scott Kruse. "He's got decent footwork so you're not going to stop him, but they probably got 10 points on putbacks. Even without size you can take that away. To me that's just free points."

Charleston (3-4) led 17-12 after one quarter and pushed the game into double figures with a big run in the second quarter, out-scoring the Eagles 15-6. to lead 32-18 at halftime.

The Bluejays led by as much as 20 points in the third quarter but never could put the Eagles away.

"We won the game but my young people still aren't playing with the intensity I need them to play with the whole game," said Charleston head coach Danny Farmer. "We play well in spurts. We've got to correct that. We've got to come out and play hard the whole game. We got back in that relax stage. We got up to 20 and they thought the game was over. We relaxed and just cruised through the victory instead of having that killer instinct. We just play at the pace of who we play against."

Charleston still held a comfortable 47-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter but the Eagles made things interesting by hitting three 3-pointers in the final frame to close the gap to seven points at one time.

But that was as close as they would get.

"We always have little bitty turnovers -- you know, just little ones where we're not taking care of the ball," said Kruse. "Their size hurt us. And then we got in foul trouble on top of that and that makes us smaller. But they're a talented team. We made it a closer than what it could've been at times. We're not going to quit. We got guys that play with heart and they play hard. I'm proud of my guys' effort. We've got a long way to go. We've just got to keep trying to get better and see if we can make noise."

Farmer's big game was a good sign after a tough early season in which he battled mononucleosis and a sprained ankle.

"He played well inside, but we can't depend on Ashton inside all the time," said Farmer. "We've got to have production every night from Clark and Sherrell. They're excellent perimeter players but they need more consistency."

Sherrell had 11 points while Clark had nine. Sophomore forward Jamarcus Williams had 14 points.

NMCC was led by senior point guard Malcolm Long's 14 points. Laterrance Newsom had 11 points followed by Eugene Cooper's 10 points.

Charleston will host Meridian (Ill.) while NMCC will host Notre Dame on Tuesday.

The Bulldog junior varsity had a tough run in the Sikeston Invitational as they suffered three lopsided losses capped by a 63-30 setback in the fifth place game to Osceola.

The score was tied 10-10 after one quarter and the junior varsity Bulldogs were still only down 21-15 at the half.

But things went south quickly in the second half as Osceola out-scored Sikeston 42-15 to win going away.

Osceola had four players in double figures led by Lonnie Dabney's 14 points. Larry Turner had 11 points while Michael Davis and Gary Stewart each had 10 points.

Sikeston was led by Blake Taylor's nine points. Cortne Beasley scored five points to go with his five steals.