JACKSON - The Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team has had it's fair share of close ballgames this year.
Tuesday night at Jackson High School proved no different as the Bulldogs fell to the Indians 49-46 in a SEMO Conference matchup.
Sikeston is now 8-8 on the season and 2-2 in conference play. Jackson improves to 11-8 and 2-3 in league play.
Of the Bulldogs' 16 games, 11 have been decided by nine points or less. Five of their losses have been decided by three points or less.
It's Sikeston's first loss to the Indians since head coach Gregg Holifield took over the program in 1999, snapping a five-game winning streak against Jackson.
"We came out very emotional," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "Our energy was very good early and we built an early lead. We put ourselves in a position where we were battling back. I'm very proud of our kids for fighting back and battling the way they did."
The Bulldogs once again played a good defensive game but had trouble on the offensive end.
The Bulldogs' Lavar Morgan had a chance to tie the game with four seconds left with two free throws, but he missed the first and a lane violation wiped out the second.
"It's a win against a quality ballclub," said Jackson head coach Mike Kiehne. "We finally got a nice, quality hard fought-win, and that's what we've been looking for lately. We got one so hopefully we can take it and run. We didn't play perfect, but we fought well down the stretch and held them off."
Sikeston's Lontas McClinton scored the first 12 points of the game for the Bulldogs early in the first quarter including an emphatic one-handed jam, giving the Bulldogs an early lead.
The Indians rallied back to lead 18-14 after one quarter.
Early in the second quarter, McClinton received a technical foul, resulting in Holifield benching the junior for the remainder of the game.
"We're going to play a certain way -- we're not going to do that," said Holifield of the technical. "Our players have done a good job this season and have worked extremely hard. We're going to continue to work hard and make an effort to do things right.
"It was a situation where there was rough play underneath the basket. Lontas retaliated and he got caught with it. He regrets the situation and he'll bounce back and continue to work."
With McClinton out the Bulldogs hit an offensive lull for two quarters. Jackson got ahead by as much as 26-16 in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs cut the lead to 27-23 by halftime.
The Bulldogs stayed within striking distance in the third, trailing 37-32 at quarter's end.
Sikeston began making its move in the fourth quarter sparked by back-to-back 3-pointers by Justin Freeman and Morgan to cut the lead to 39-38 with five minutes remaining.
Freeman hit two more 3-pointers in the fourth quarter that knotted the score, including one with 1:40 left to make it 46-46.
But six seconds later, Jackson's Matt Gordon sank two free throws that proved to be the difference.
Sikeston's final play to Morgan was actually designed to go to Freeman.
"We set up an out-of-bounds play to get Freeman open for a 3, but they defended it well," said Holifield. "The other option was to get Lavar cutting hard to the basket. He was wide open and was fouled before he could put it up. We almost had a 3-point play out of it."
Gordon added one more free throw with three ticks left to provide the final score.
Freeman led the Bulldogs with 17 points, including five 3-pointers. McClinton finished with 12.
"McClinton going out really hurt them," said Kiehne. "That's an unfortunate thing. Holifield's a class guy and he's going to keep his man out. They said that my guy elbowed him first, I didn't see anything. It's just an unfortunate thing that happened.
"Down the road that's going to help them in district time. I'll tell you what, they are a tough team. With Freeman hitting like that and Lontas in the middle, they are going to be really tough. I'm glad we don't have to play them again."
Jackson was led by Tyler McNeely's 10 points and Seth McDowell's nine.
Sikeston got solid play out of Ben Anderson off the bench with six points and a team-high six rebounds. Lawrence Davis added six points with five assists while Tori Rose was once again a pest on defense.
"We had valuable minutes from Ben Anderson and Tori Rose and I thought Lawrence Davis played outstanding tonight," said Holifield. "Justin Freeman stepped up and helped carry us with some big 3s. "I think (Jackson is) very physical, very aggressive, very tough and hard to beat at home."
Sikeston will host Kelly on Friday night at 6 p.m. and will travel to Portageville on Saturday at 6 p.m.
Jackson will host Perryville on Friday at 6 p.m.
The Sikeston jayvee team fell to 8-5 on the season with a 46-43 loss to Jackson.
The Bulldogs led 19-12 after one quarter but couldn't hold on, trailing 27-26 at the half and 37-33 after three quarters.
Freddie Wiggins led the Bulldogs with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Marcus McCaster had nine points and Apollo Patterson had eight. Shane Stricker pulled down six rebounds.
Jackson was led by Nick Fiehler with 13 and Jack Puisis with 11.