SHS hopes to avoid upset in final game at Tiger Field House
CAPE GIRARDEAU - When head coach Derek McCord took over the Cape Central Tigers basketball program, he knew that his first year at the helm would be a struggle.
But even he couldn't envision the hard times his fledgling team has fallen on.
The Tigers (4-17 and 0-6 in the SEMO Conference) have not only struggled in the win column, but also in retaining players.
Three starters have either quit or have been removed from the team. And one other starter is injured for the year with a torn ACL.
On Friday night, McCord and his Tigers will try to win their final game in the Tiger Field House when they host the Sikeston Bulldogs at 6 p.m.
Cape Central will be moving into a new high school next year.
"I know that they're going to be very excited with it being their last high school basketball game in the Field House," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "I know they'll have a big crowd there and their players will be fired up to play."
Holifield's Bulldogs (12-9, 3-2 SEMO) have been playing well lately, winning three straight games and five of their last seven.
"Sikeston would have to be the heavy favorite," said McCord.
"We are in a total rebuilding phase. When you come into a situation like I did with the job at Central you can't concern yourself with numbers or records, you just have to help lay a foundation every day and that's what we're trying to do."
The Tigers play several sophomores and McCord might even give some freshmen some playing time on Friday.
"We're basically playing the toughest 4A schedule around here with a jayvee roster," said McCord.
The Tigers are led by athletic sophomore guard Ryan Delph. Senior guard Matt Cardin is the team's best shooter and a clutch performer but he has been injured and may play sparingly.
Other players that will start are junior Jay Ruark, junior Anthony Harris, sophomore Will Johnson and junior Corey Bowman (6-4).
"They have very good guard play and they're quick up front," said Holifield. "They have a tendency to put a lot of pressure on the basketball and we've got to be able to handle it and not be careless."
Sikeston defeated Cape Central 66-57 in the Sikeston Invitational Tournament but the Bulldogs trailed in the game with under three minutes remaining.
In that game, Willie Colon was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
"(Colon is) the only kid I had with any varsity experience at all last year other than Cardin," said McCord. "When he went down, we had two different 15-year-olds that have rotated in that starting point guard spot. But taking Colon out of our lineup was like taking a head off a body."
The Bulldogs are led by junior Lontas McClinton, who averages about 18 points and nine rebounds per game. Senior Justin Freeman and junior Lavar Morgan both average about 12 points per game.
"Those three are really playing well right now," said Holifield. "I feel as a team overall we're playing well. We're getting solid contributions out of Ben Anderson, Lawrence Davis, Michael Colon and Tori Rose. We've just got to keep improving every day. I think we're playing our best basketball of the season. We just have to improve every day and keep trying getting better for the district tournament."
The Bulldogs are still trying to jockey for position in the 3A District 1 Tournament at Sikeston. With New Madrid County Central and Dexter looking as the No. 1 and 2 seeds, Sikeston is hoping for the third slot with their late-season surge.
Holifield hopes the Bulldogs can continue to play well on Friday night.
"Number one it's a conference game and we want to have as much momentum as we can these last two weeks of the season," said Holifield. "We're looking to play good basketball every night out. That's a goal of ours at this time of the year, to try to peak and I hope our players understand that and will come out ready to play."