MARION, Ill. -- The Sikeston Bulldogs fell to 0-2 on the season with a 72-71 double overtime loss to the Marion Wildcats in Illinois on Tuesday night.
It's the second out of state team the Bulldogs have played after losing on the road to Blytheville (Ark.) last week.
The Bulldogs lost that game 62-40, but the team had a better performance on Tuesday.
Bulldog seniors Lontas McClinton and Lavar Morgan combined for 51 points but it wasn't enough as the Wildcats hit clutch free throws down the stretch.
Marion, playing its sixth game of the year, got two free throws from Aaron Franks with four seconds left to win the game.
He was put on the line after an apparent charge on Franks was ruled a blocking foul on Sikeston.
The Bulldogs' game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer was well short as the Wildcats held on for the victory in their home debut of Southern Illinois coaching legend Rich Herrin.
Herrin has more than 40 years of coaching experience on the high school and collegiate level, most notably his 13 years at SIU-Carbondale.
"Marion has an outstanding team and it was an emotional night for them with it being Coach Herrin's first game," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "Our players showed a lot of character, especially on the road in a difficult place to play."
The Bulldogs appeared to be in control when they had possession of the ball with a 69-64 lead with a little more than two minutes remaining in double overtime.
But a couple of ill-advised shots and a turnover contributed to a 6-0 run by Marion.
"We had an opportunity to basically control the tempo of the game at that time," said Holifield. "But we made a couple of mistakes and we just didn't handle the situation as well as should have down the stretch."
Trailing 70-69, sophomore Marcus McCaster drove to the hoop and found Ben Anderson wide open for a layup to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead with 10 seconds left.
But Franks' two free throws clinched the win for the Wildcats. Franks led the Wildcats with 26 points.
"We had a good crowd and we're happy to win at home," said Herrin. "We hadn't had many close basketball games. So it's good to have to play under pressure. We were down five in the second overtime period, a lot of teams would've folded. We didn't fold our tent, we stayed at it. We made six straight free throws late in the game and that's pretty important."
The emotionally charged Wildcats came out smoking in the first quarter, leading by as much as 14-4 after a barrage of 3-pointers. They still led 16-9 after one quarter.
A slam dunk by McClinton on a fast break sparked a 16-4 run to give the Bulldogs a 25-20 lead.
The Bulldogs eventually settled for a 27-26 halftime lead.
"Things were probably a little bit too easy for us when we jumped out quickly," said Herrin. "We didn't rebound and we didn't get back a couple of times when they ran their break on us. They came roaring back and that gave them confidence, no doubt about it."
The Wildcats came back after halftime to lead 48-45 heading into the fourth quarter.
Late in the fourth quarter, McClinton scored to give the Bulldogs a 58-56 lead with 1:17 left. But Franks hit two free throws with 16 seconds left to tie the game, sending it into overtime.
The two teams played to a stalemate in the first overtime with the score tied 64-64. In the second overtime, a McClinton basket and a McCaster 3-pointer gave the Bulldogs a 69-64 lead, but the team couldn't hold on.
But Holifield saw huge strides from last week's disappointing performance at Blytheville.
"I thought our players made a great deal of improvement from one week to the next," said Holifield. "We had good defensive pressure and we got on a the boards and out-rebounded them 44-34. I was very proud of that stat, because they're a very strong and physical team. Overall I thought we played well, we just need to put ourselves into a position to handle situations a little better down the stretch."
McClinton led the Bulldogs with 29 points, 15 rebounds, three blocked shots and three steals. He had 25 of his points in the second half.
Morgan followed up with 22 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and three steals.
"I didn't realize how good they were," said Herrin. "I didn't know that No. 4 (Morgan) was that good of a player. I knew 44 (McClinton) was a good player. We didn't have a good team defensive effort. When they've got guys as good as Morgan and McClinton then it's tough. We should've given more help."
Marion also got double figures out of Joel Allen (14 points) and Wes Buffington (12 points).
The Wildcats (5-1) will host Herrin, Ill., on Friday.
The Bulldogs will have their home-opener on Friday night against Dexter.
"This was a tough ballgame tonight and it could've gone either way," said Herrin. "We're pleased to win in a pressure situation."
The Bulldog jayvee team fell to 3-2 on the season with a 50-40 loss to Marion.
The Wildcats led through most of the game, holding a 19-14 halftime lead and a 33-22 lead after three quarters. Sikeston had no player reach double figures. Marcus McCaster and Josh Alvarado each had eight points. Matt Limbaugh had nine rebounds. McCaster and Tyler Woodson each had three assists.