CAPE GIRARDEAU - The Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team ended the first half of their season on a winning note, defeating Notre Dame 48-47 on Friday night at Notre Dame High School.
Sikeston won't have another game until Jan. 4 when they host Charleston. The Bulldogs head into Christmas break with a 5-4 record.
Notre Dame falls to 3-3 on the season.
The last four games between the two schools have been decided by three points or less. Sikeston's win snaps a two-game losing streak to Notre Dame.
"I was really proud of our effort," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "We made some mistakes and we turned the basketball over, but I thought overall our effort, especially defensively, was very good. Tonight's effort was the best it's been all season. Everybody we put on the floor played hard. We've just got to keep pushing to get to the next level."
The Bulldogs' defense was as tough as it had been this year, limiting Notre Dame to just 17 second half points.
But Notre Dame was up to the challenge defensively also. Sikeston shot just 32 percent from the field and made only 13-of-27 from the free throw line, including 8-of-19 in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs missed seven straight at one point in the final frame.
"It's just a confidence thing more than anything else, and some of it is mechanics," said Holifield. "But in time we'll get it straightened out. We're young and we're going to get better. We're going to spend a lot of time in that area in the next two months."
The Bulldogs made up for it with a commanding edge in the rebound department, grabbing 41 to Notre Dame's 27.
Lontas McClinton and Lavar Morgan each had 10 rebounds while Michael Colon grabbed nine boards to lead the Bulldogs. Sikeston also had 17 steals but they turned it over 19 times.
But Holifield was just happy to escape with the victory.
"I'm very proud of our team because I know what a good team Notre Dame's got," said Holifield. "They're as good as anybody around here on given nights. Defensively, they were outstanding tonight. I was very impressed with them."
Notre Dame, the defending Class 2A District 2 champions, looked impressive out of the gates, taking an 11-2 lead on the Bulldogs to start the game.
However, Sikeston steadily chipped away at the lead, cutting it to 15-12 by quarter's end.
The Bulldogs continued their run in the second quarter led by McClinton's 10 points in the period, highlighted by his ally-oop slam dunk off a Justin Freeman pass.
Sikeston finally tied the score at 30-30 when Morgan buried a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
The second half was when both team's defenses clamped down. Notre Dame's Travis Siebert, who pumped in 31 points on Tuesday versus Cape Central, was held to two points in the second half.
"(Siebert) lost his confidence and he made a couple of turnovers -- they just did a good job guarding us tonight," said Notre Dame head coach Darrin Scott. "The main thing was they kept us from getting into our offense and doing what we wanted to do. They're strong and physical and they just do a good job defensively."
Sikeston trailed through most of the game, even into the fourth quarter until Freeman's 3-pointer at the 3:40 mark gave the Bulldogs a 41-40 edge.
Both teams were terrible from the line in the fourth quarter, but Lawrence Davis hit two with 32 seconds left to lead 46-43. Freeman added two more with 14 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a seemingly comfortable 48-43 lead.
But seconds later, Notre Dame's Doug Schaefer scored a layup and called a timeout with seven ticks left.
Trailing 48-45, Notre Dame fouled Sikeston's Tori Rose before the ball was inbounded. He missed both free throws, but Notre Dame's game-tying 3-point attempt was an air-ball. Nathan LeGrand rebounded the miss and scored a meaningless basket as the final horn sounded.
Sikeston was led by McClinton's 19 points. Morgan added 12 and Freeman had 10 points with four steals. Colon had six steals.
"I could nit-pick and say we don't want Lontas to ever touch it, but that's tough to do -- he's such a tremendous athlete," said Scott. "We kept Freeman from getting too many open looks from three. He made one big one down the stretch off the break, but I was pleased with our defensive effort. I just wasn't happy with the way we played in the fourth quarter when it comes to confidence."
Siebert finished with 15 but no other Notre Dame player reached double figures.
There was some confusion as to whether Notre Dame is a member of the SEMO Conference. Chris Janet, Notre Dame's athletic director, insists the school is a member of the conference, while there have been other reports specifying that only the ND girls basketball team is a member.
But regardless, Scott has bigger things on his mind than a conference championship -- like another district title.
"We'd rather be 13-13 and go into the district tournament and be the best basketball team we can be as opposed to going 22-6 and not played anybody and not be as good as we can," said Scott. "That's our goal and playing teams like Sikeston definitely makes you better."
Notre Dame hosts Charleston on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
The Sikeston jayvee team improved to 7-2 on the season with a 49-47 win over Notre Dame.
Sikeston trailed throughout, but tied the score at 35-35 entering the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs led 49-41 with less than two minutes remaining but Notre Dame rallied to make things interesting. Notre Dame (3-5) never could get close than two points.
Sikeston was led by Freddie Wiggins with 28 points and 16 rebounds. Notre Dame was led by Blake Fisher and Bryce Willen with 11 points each.