SIKESTON - Since 1994, the Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team had opened the season with a win over Blytheville just one time.
The Chickasaws, who begin practice two months before Missouri teams are allowed to start, usually have two or three games under their belt by the time they take on the Bulldogs.
On Tuesday night, Sikeston was able to defeat the Chickasaws in the season opener for the second time in three years, winning 62-54 at the Field House.
Blytheville falls to 2-2 on the season.
"Blytheville kind of gets a jump on us with three or four games under their belt, but it's a good opportunity for us to play a team that good this early," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "I went and scouted them the other night and I was very impressed. They have such a great program with great tradition. Coach (David) Hixson does an outstanding job and I have a lot of respect for their program. I knew we'd have to come out and really play well. Fortunately we did."
Sikeston came out of the gates on fire, roaring to a 13-2 lead to start the game. The Bulldogs led 20-6 after the first quarter and never trailed in the contest.
After the first quarter, the closest Blytheville got to the Bulldogs was seven points midway through the second quarter. "We came out with a lot of intensity," said Holifield. "We really played well in the first quarter and established ourselves and that's how we've got to play. The excitement wore off a little bit and we started standing, so we've got to play a complete game. We're still young, but our players have matured so much physically. We're getting better -- we just have to keep working.
Sikeston got 23 points and 10 rebounds out of junior forward Lontas McClinton. Senior forward Justin Freeman pumped in 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
The two combined for all 20 of the Bulldogs' first quarter points.
"They have a very good presence inside," said Hixson. "(McClinton and Freeman) are both a load. McClinton is a great athlete and he does a great job of playing post offense. And you can't sag on the other big one (Freeman), because he's probably their best shooter, at least technical-wise."
But it wasn't just a two-man show for Sikeston. Junior point guard Lavar Morgan finished with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Senior Larry Newman had seven points and Lawrence Davis had four steals.
"They've got good guard play," said Hixson. "I think they're a better basketball team from a year ago. They're a little deeper and they're longer. Their guards are kids that can hurt you with offensive rebounding and they can defend. They did a good job of disrupting us just enough."
After Sikeston's explosive first quarter, the Chickasaws outscored the Bulldogs every quarter thereafter.
But the Bulldogs were able to handle every Chickasaw run with a big basket or steal.
"(My) bunch has been streaky at best," said Hixson. "We shot real well in our first couple of games and we've kind of gone down. Against a team like this and a team that's in their own environment, you really need to get off to a good start. But we just weren't able to do that."
Blytheville was led by Jeremy Whaley's 18 points.
Sikeston led 30-17 at the half and 44-33 entering the fourth quarter. The Chicks cut the lead to 10 early in the final frame, but 3-point shots by Newman and Freeman iced the game.
"Offensively we have so much work to do, but early on in the game the spacing was good," said Holifield. "We've just got to continue working to get better. If our players keep working like they have been, then I like our future."
Sikeston's jayvee team evened its record at 1-1 on the season, defeating Blytheville 54-46 on Tuesday.
Sikeston trailed 13-9 after one quarter but outscored Blytheville 32-14 in the middle frames.
Sikeston was led in scoring by Freddie Wiggins with 15 points. Lance Rhodes followed up with 10 points and Blake DeWitt had nine.
Blytheville (2-1) was led by Vontrell Whaley with 11 points.