SIKESTON - The Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team dropped a heartbreaker on Tuesday at the Field House, falling to the Marion (Ill.) Wildcats 49-48.
The Bulldogs led 48-44 with less than a minute remaining but a rash of turnovers and poor free throw shooting led to the defeat.
"We just had some turnovers and we didn't handle the situation the way we needed to," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "The only way you're going to learn how to handle those situations is to be in it like we were tonight. We'll grow from that and get better for it."
Sikeston still led 48-47 with under 10 seconds remaining but 6-foot-6 Marion center Greg Behm hit a bank shot with 0:05 left.
Sikeston inbounded the ball to Justin Freeman, who then found Larry Newman on the left sideline. Newman swished a one-handed shot from 28-feet for an apparent game-winner, but it was waved off after the official ruled he stepped out of bounds.
"It was a typical Sikeston game," said Marion head coach Gerald Murphy, whose team improves to 2-3. "I think the last time we played here it came down to the last shot. Coach Holifield does a good job with them and I told him when we came down here it would be a battle.
"This is probably one of the better teams I've seen them have and we were fortunate to get a win. Even if we got beat I would've been very proud of my kids. They battled down to the wire. We've lost two heartbreakers just like this, but we've gotten better every week."
Sikeston was in the lead for the majority of the game, leading 26-23 at halftime and 37-36 entering the fourth quarter.
But foul problems started to mount along with some bad luck. Lontas McClinton battled fouls the entire night, playing less than half the game before fouling out in the fourth with six points and six rebounds.
Later, Newman was decked with a hard screen when the Bulldogs were up four with 45 seconds left, sending him to the bench while trainers patched up an open cut on his head.
Marion's Wes Buffington drained a 3-pointer on the play to cut the lead to 48-47.
And then Freeman was spotted with blood on his shorts, forcing him out of the game.
Both teams shot poorly from the free throw line but a missed one-and-one by the Bulldogs with 40 seconds was the most costly. Sikeston's lead stayed at 48-47, leading to the game-winning shot by Behm.
"I hate to brag too much but that just shows the character of the bunch I'm working with," said Murphy. "That's what makes them so fun, the fact that they don't quit. The opportunity was there, we hit some big shots and we were very lucky to win the ballgame."
Sikeston was led by Newman's 16 points, including four 3-pointers. He also had four steals and three assists. Freeman added 14 points.
Behm led Marion with 16 while 6-foot-5 Miles James had 14 points.
"I thought our effort was really good -- we've just got to get better in certain areas," said Holifield. "It's early in the year and we're still a young team. We've just got to keep improving. I thought our intensity was good most of the game. Offensively we struggled a little bit but that's going to happen early in the year."
Sikeston will travel to play Dexter on Friday with junior varsity action starting at 6 p.m.
The Bulldogs jayvee team improved to 4-1 this season with a 54-47 win over Marion. Sikeston built a 31-22 halftime lead and never trailed in the second half.
Sikeston was led by Freddie Wiggins with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Apollo Patterson followed up with nine points.