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Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014

Dogs were the better team - for a half

Monday, January 7, 2002

Well, another classic Sikeston versus Charleston game has come and gone.

And while the result was all-too-familiar for Bulldogs fans, I was so impressed with the performance Sikeston gave in the second half.

I will go as far to say that the second half Friday night was one of the best halves of basketball the Bulldogs have played in quite some time.

The Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with the reigning U-High champions, a tournament in which the Bluejays had no game closer than 10 points, and almost pulled off the upset.

In case folks haven't figured it out yet, Charleston is the top Class 2A team in the area when they are running on all cylinders.

No disrespect to Notre Dame, Portageville and Twin Rivers, but if Charleston plays like they did Friday night, there's no 2A team that can beat them. And not many 3A or 4A teams for that matter.

And if it wasn't for the unbelievable shooting of Division-I recruit Lezcano Dean, the Bulldogs would have won Friday night.

Sikeston had 21 days off from its last game, and it showed for most of the first half.

Charleston on the other hand, got to work out kinks in the U-High Tournament and were ready to go full throttle from the opening tip.

But once the initial shock of playing one of the top teams in the area wore off, Sikeston looked like a team that can be a dangerous opponent late in the year.

Friday night's game had a playoff-type atmosphere. The place was nearly packed with well over 2,000 fans, and the crowd and the intensity of the game rivals any contest I've seen this year, including the Bloomfield Christmas Tournament.

I doubt you'd find a better atmosphere in any high school game from Memphis to St. Louis better than the one in the Field House Friday night. I've seen some intense Sikeston-Charleston games, but for some reason, this one was exceeds any I've seen in years.

Both teams wanted this game bad.

And the game featured a little of everything with the favorite, Charleston, jumping out to a huge lead highlighted by freshman Ashton Farmer's two slam dunks.

And then the underdog, Sikeston, clawing its way back into the game and finally taking the lead in the fourth quarter, only to see the most highly-touted player, Dean, come up with the biggest shots of the game.

Lontas McClinton continues to perform well, scoring 19 points and 17 rebounds. I'm not so sure he wasn't the best player on the floor Friday night. He is nearly unstoppable one-on-one. And he's been doing it all year.

The bottom line though, after falling behind 27-10, instead of cashing it in and accepting defeat, the Bulldogs played like champions. From that point on, Sikeston outscored Charleston 45-29.

There aren't many teams that are capable of doing that to the Bluejays. On a given night, Charleston can beat any team in the area, including New Madrid County Central, whom they play on Tuesday.

Some fans may just think Friday night was just another loss for Sikeston, but I see it a different way. I see it as marked improvement, keyed by two weeks of practice, preparation and hard work.

Sure, the layoff hurt. Any team that doesn't play a game in 21 days is going to show signs of rust. But in the long run, those two weeks of practice will make the Bulldogs a better team.

I don't know how many games they will win. But what I do know is that the Bulldogs will be competitive with nearly every team they play.

Sikeston has now won five and lost five. Four of the losses were decided by one, one, two and six points.

The other was an early season rout against Dexter.

Many coaches believe losses are necessary to become the best team they can be -- especially losses at each end of the spectrum -- blowouts and buzzer beaters, just so the team will know how to handle the situation the next time around.

Even two time defending state champion NMCC was defeated 13 times during the state title runs. But they always found something extra come playoff time.

Nobody wants to lose, but it's going to happen. So you make the most of it and you learn from it.

Sikeston has now experienced five defeats of different variety. They will still make young mistakes because there isn't a ton of varsity experience on the floor. But you will see those mistakes dwindle as the year progresses.

The road isn't easy for Sikeston -- 3A District 1 is one of the top districts in the state.

NMCC is favored to win a third consecutive state championship this year. Dexter is still an extremely dangerous team and Kennett is looking better every day.

But one thing Sikeston has in its corner is that the district tournament will be played at the Field House this year.

There are still many games to play between now and the end of February and I look for the Bulldogs to keep improving. And who knows? One way or another, Sikeston may play a role in that district.