SIKESTON -- Everything has gone as expected in the Class 4, District 1 Tournament.
Now it's time for the game that everybody has been waiting for, Notre Dame versus Sikeston for all the marbles.
With both teams posting convincing victories on Wednesday night, the stage is set for one of the most highly anticipated games of the season on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Sikeston Field House.
It's a rematch from mid-December when Sikeston defeated Notre Dame 83
-61 at Notre Dame Regional High School.
Sikeston owns the victory against Notre Dame. But it was Notre Dame that captured the seMissourian Christmas Tournament and shot past Sikeston in the state rankings and the SEMO media poll.
Notre Dame comes into the game 22-3 and ranked fifth in Class 4, which is where they've been for nearly the entire season.
Sikeston hasn't even cracked the state's top 10 poll once.
Despite Sikeston's convincing win in the first meeting, Holifield feels that Friday's game will be much closer -- most likely one that could go to the wire.
"You don't go 22-3 and beat the people they've beaten without having a good team," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "I think they're a much better team than the first time we played them. But we've improved too. Whoever wins it will have to earn it. We're two of the best teams in the area and it's set for a good championship night."
While Notre Dame has gotten the most attention this year, Sikeston quietly went about its business, posting once victory after another on their way to the 19-6 record they currently have. The Bulldogs have lost to just two Missouri teams (Charleston and Jackson).
Sikeston is riding a 10-game winning streak, with eight of those victories by 15 points or more.
It's a streak that gives Holifield the impression that his team is playing its best basketball of the season. But he also thinks Notre Dame may be at its peak as well.
"I think us and Notre Dame both have improved throughout the year as much as any two teams around and that's why we're meeting in the championship game. You can look at the people that we both have beaten and it's very comparable."
Sikeston has gotten production from numerous players this season with five different people close to double figures.
Freshman Michael Porter leads the team with 15.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 3.2 assists.
Junior guard Julian Beard has been sharp the last several games as his point average has soared to 13.2 along with four rebounds per game.
Rod Moore checks in at 11.5 points per game and 6.0 rebounds per game. Kash Bratcher averages 10 points and four assists per game and Isaac Porter averages 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds. He leads the team in assists (4.1), steals (2.4) and charges taken (8).
Notre Dame counters with more size in the paint with 6-foot-3 Alex Ressel, who averages 16 points per game. Ryan Willen, a 6-6 sophomore, has a good inside-outside game where he is capable of stepping out and hitting 3-
pointers. He nailed four on Wednesday against Ste. Genevieve on his way to a 29-point outing. He averages 13.5 points per game.
Cat-quick guards Xavier Delph and Frankie Ellis are the catalysts for the Bulldogs' full-court press. Both score several baskets a night on layups caused by the press.
Delph averages 11.0 ppg while Ellis chips in with 8.0 ppg. Kirk Boeller, who is capable of carrying the team from 3-point range, averages 9.0 ppg.
But this game goes deeper than just this season. This is a rivalry that has been brewing for several years now.
Notre Dame has knocked off Sikeston two out of the last three years in district play, both in heartbreaking fashion, including last year's buzzer-
beating finish. Notre Dame went on to make the state final four.
Both teams have also had plenty of wars on the baseball diamond -- meeting for the district championship the last three years with Sikeston winning two of them.
It even carries over into soccer, where Sikeston has defeated Notre Dame in back to back district championship games.
The tension is sure to carry over into the stands as well as an overflow crowd is expected.
Holifield says his team will be ready for the electric atmosphere.
"Both teams have been in big games throughout the year so I don't think anybody will be intimidated by the big crowd," said Holifield.
"I think both teams will come out and play well. We'll just have to play our game and use our strengths and try to take away their strengths. We will have to play extremely well and play our game."