CAPE GIRARDEAU - The Sikeston Bulldogs will play their final basketball game of 2001 tonight when they travel to play the Notre Dame Bulldogs.
Sikeston won't be competing in a Christmas Tournament this season so its next game won't be until Jan. 4, 2002 when they host Charleston.
Notre Dame has defeated Sikeston two straight times, so Bulldog head coach Gregg Holifield knows his team will face a huge task tonight.
"They're a very good team," said Holifield. "They're very physical, they shoot the basketball well, they have a great post game. On their home court they'll definitely be a handful. They don't lose very often (on their home court) and we're going to have to play well to beat them."
Notre Dame, the defending Class 2A, District 2 champions, are currently 3-2 this year, having lost to Dexter and Park Hills Central.
"The thing they do so well is that they're physical," said Holifield. "They really get in there and bang, they negate a lot of things we try to do inside with our post game. We're really going to try to get out and guard and pick up the tempo somewhat. We'll also have to control their post players, who I think both are outstanding. Their guards handle the ball well and they don't turn it over very much."
Notre Dame has a balanced scoring attack led by junior guard Travis Siebert, who averages 12.5 points per game, including 31 on Tuesday versus Cape Central.
Senior guard Scott Wittenborn averages 11.8 points while junior forward Cory Beussink (6-3) leads the team with 9.5 rebounds while scoring about nine points.
Doug Schaefer, a 6-6 center, averages four points and seven rebounds.
"We'd like to think that rebounding is something we do well," said Scott. "In the games we won we out-rebounded our opponents. Rebounding usually determines how well we play."
Notre Dame has several different players that can score, but head coach Darrin Scott says he never knows who it's going to be.
"It depends on what night it is," said Scott. "This year we've got a few more players that can score. We've been pretty consistent, but inconsistent from the standpoint that we've had a different leading scorer in every game we've played."
Others that are capable of scoring for Notre Dame was seniors Nathan LeGrand (8.5 ppg) and Timmy Wencewicz (3.0) and junior Wayne Essner (6.5 ppg).
Sikeston has posted a 4-4 record so far this year against a brutal early season schedule. Five of the Bulldogs' first eight opponents won 20 or more games last year and two won district championships. Only one of Sikeston's opponents had a losing record last season in Cape Central.
Notre Dame just adds to the list of tough competition, who also won 20 games with a district title.
But Holifield expected the team's inconsistency at this point in the season, especially with seven of his top nine players coming off football.
"I knew going in pre-Christmas that our schedule was very difficult," said Holifield. "We're still a young basketball team. I feel like we've made strides and gotten better. We very easily could be 7-1 at this point with a couple of breaks. I'm proud of our team, they're working hard. I'm optimistic after Christmas, when we get some practice time in, that we have a chance to have a fine team."
The Bulldogs have been led by junior forward Lontas McClinton, who averages 18.4 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. He scored a career-high 30 points on Tuesday against Farmington.
Forward Justin Freeman averaged 11.3 points while hitting 17-of-37 (46 percent) from 3-point range.
Lavar Morgan also averages double figures at 10.8 points per game. Converted point guard Lawrence Davis leads the team in assists and steals while averaging 4.0 points.
"They're a super athletic team," said Scott. "McClinton is a great athlete and their guards are really athletic with Morgan and Davis. They're going to be as quick as anybody we play. And then when you add to that, Justin Freeman, a 6-4 player that can step out and shoot the 3 as well as anybody in Southeast Missouri, that makes it really tough to guard them."
Other players that see quite a bit of playing time are junior Michael Colon, who is second on the team in rebounding (4.5), junior Tori Rose and 6-foot-7 center Ben Anderson.
"Anytime you're going to play Sikeston, Coach Holifield is going to have them ready to play," said Scott. "They play well regardless of what kind of talent they have. They've got some kids that can really score, so we're going to have to play well to win."
The junior varsity is set to tip off at 6 p.m. with the varsity following at approximately 7:30.