SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team will have a pair of Class 2A teams on tap this weekend.
On Friday, the Bulldogs will host the Kelly Hawks. They follow that up with a Saturday matchup when they visit the Portageville Bulldogs on homecoming night.
The Hawks are a familiar opponent for Sikeston (8-8), but Portageville is a team that the Bulldogs haven't played for more than a decade.
The last time the two teams met was in 1986 and 1987. That finished up a two-year contract when the two teams split with each other and they haven't played since.
Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield is hoping this could develop into a natural rivalry.
"It's a good game for us," said Holifield. "It's close and they have an outstanding and well-respected program and they are a good addition to our schedule. I hope to continue to play them. They play such a good style of basketball and I think our kids are looking forward to going down there and playing."
But prior to that showdown will be Friday's game with Kelly, a team that is 3-12 this year.
But the Hawks have played much better the last couple of weeks, posting two of their wins. They also competed well with the likes of Jackson and Charleston.
"Kelly's really been playing well lately," said Holifield. "The people I've talked to that have played them recently are very impressed with how they're playing. I think they're a very smart basketball team and their coach (Nick Lanpher) has done an outstanding job of pulling them together. Their players are gaining confidence and the past two or three games they've really competed against good basketball teams."
Kelly is led by Major Burger and Tyler Schlosser on the offensive end. The Hawks also possess good size, with the 6-3 Barry Ziegler and the 6-4 Chris Glastetter.
"I think we'll matchup pretty well with their size," said Lanpher. "They're a little larger than us and they may be a little quicker than what we are. But we've been playing pretty good ball the last three weeks and we're looking forward to it. Playing Sikeston will fire up the kids. Anytime we play a big school they seem to get up for them. They enjoy playing the different competition."
Lance Scheffer also starts while Ashley Hahn comes off the bench for the Hawks.
"Our players are working very hard and they want to come out and play well against them," said Holifield. "They know they'll have a battle on their hands."
The Bulldogs are led by junior forward Lontas McClinton who averages about 19 points and 10 rebounds per game. Justin Freeman and Lavar Morgan each follow with about 12 points per game.
The Portageville matchup is a highly anticipated game that has finally arrived.
Both schools have put together outstanding teams over the last 10 years. Portageville and Sikeston are two of three schools with more district championships than any team in the area in that span.
This year's Portageville team is also putting together a tremendous season, currently standing 14-2 and ranked No. 8 in Class 2A.
"I've scouted them a couple of times and they're an outstanding basketball team," said Holifield. "They're very talented, they have great athleticism, they shoot the basketball well, and they handle it well. They seem to have the total package. The times I've seen them I've been very impressed."
Portageville is led by senior J.T. Williams, who averages about 16 points per game. Eric Booker follows up with about 15 points per game.
The Bulldogs have a strong senior class with skilled junior Aaron Bidewell coming off the bench.
"We just want to go down there and play well and compete and have a chance to do something by the end of the game," said Holifield. "We know it's a very difficult place to play. Our players have a lot of respect for their program and we know it's going to be a tough game."
Portageville head coach Jim Bidewell knows that Sikeston has played inconsistent this year, but he is still leery.
"Sikeston's dangerous," said Bidewell. "I know they've got as good a talent as anybody around the Bootheel. We're definitely not going to take them lightly. They're the kind of team that scares everybody regardless of what they've done throughout the year or the last game they've played. Everybody realizes what they can do."
The Bulldogs have been very competitive this year but have had trouble finishing out close games, losing many by three points or less.
"I've coached against Gregg for many years and I know the types of teams he has," said Bidewell. "They generally play real good defense and run a lot of sets on offense. I know they're going to come out and put a lot of pressure on us and we've got to be able to handle it. It's going to give us a measuring stick of where we are at this point in the season."
Portageville has the tough Bootheel Conference Tournament on tap next week so Bidewell is hoping his team can enter the tournament on a positive.
"I'm sure our players will be excited," said Bidewell. "Anytime a smaller school plays a bigger school it's always a challenge."