Even on a poor shooting night, the Bulldogs showed that their defense isn't too bad either.
In Wednesday night's Class 4 Sectional game at Mineral Area College in Park Hills, Sikeston's pressure defense keyed the team to a 64-45 victory against DeSoto.
The Bulldogs (21-6) advance to the quarterfinal round at 8:15 on Saturday night at the Farmington Civic Center where they will take on St. James (19-9), which won its sectional by upsetting No. 6 ranked Kennedy 49-48 in overtime.
It's Sikeston's first sectional victory since Gregg Holifield took over the coaching duties in 1998.
"It's nice to win this one," said Holifield. "There's nothing like getting to the quarterfinals in a do-or-die situation to go to the final four. I know our players are excited about it. We'll work extremely hard to do all we can to win that game Saturday."
Sikeston broke into the state rankings this week at No. 7 in Class 4 and they entered Wednesday's game as the favorite against the upstart Dragons.
But DeSoto had other ideas.
The Dragons (18-11) gave Sikeston all it wanted for three quarters, but the Bulldogs' superior athletic ability finally wore down the Dragons. An 11-0 run midway through the third quarter erased DeSoto's only lead of the game and essentially put the game away.
DeSoto never got closer than five points the rest of the way.
"They play off your mistakes," said veteran DeSoto coach Allen Davis. "I thought they struggled scoring on our defense. It's just that transition game. I told the kids I'd rather them throw it away in the bleachers or get a five-
second call than throwing some soft pass up there. Every soft pass we threw, they gobbled it up and that's the nature of their defense. They do a good job on it and they're tenacious at it. Anytime they see somebody soft or weak, they attack.
"That's basketball in my opinion. I think that's the only basketball to play, I just wish I had the athletes to play that way because that's the style. Jefferson County style of playing that slow-down and packing it in the paint defense -- you might win games, but I'm not really sure that's basketball. They (Sikeston) get out and run, they defend and they guard and they have fun.
"They do a great job and they're a great team and they're very well-coached. I hope they win a state championship."
In the first half, the Bulldogs could not seem to find the range against DeSoto's collapsing defense.
The Dragons basically dared Sikeston to shoot from the perimeter while focusing on containing Bulldog leading scorer Michael Porter and keeping the Bulldogs' quicker guards from penetrating to the basket.
The strategy worked for a half.
Sikeston misfired on numerous jumpers in the first half. Most of the team's baskets were on offensive putbacks or points off turnovers.
"We came out a little nervous," said Holifield. "I thought our energy was good and our effort was good. On the offensive end we had bad shots early. In the second half I thought we our shot selection improved a great deal."
Even with the poor shooting, Sikeston led throughout the first quarter, leading by as much as seven points before the Dragons cut it to 12-10 after one.
In the second quarter, Sikeston once again opened up a seven-point lead sparked by Cortne Beasley's play off the bench while three starters were on the bench with foul trouble.
Beasley, in his only quarter of action, scored five points and had two steals, two rebounds and an assist.
In addition to Beasley, Ray Rodgers, Blake Taylor and Josh Porter provided key minutes off the bench during the critical second quarter stretch.
The Bulldogs still managed to maintain the lead the entire period on their way to a 27-25 halftime lead.
DeSoto's 6-foot-5 junior forward Jake Huskey was dominant in the first half as he scored 13 points, most coming on lob passes over the smaller Bulldog lineup. It was something that needed to be addressed at halftime.
"We had to make some defensive adjustments at halftime and I thought we played much better in the second half on the defensive end and that was the difference in the game," said Holifield. "We put pressure on the ball and we moved in behind Huskey, tried to force him out, and made him shoot over the top of us.
"We tried to front him in the first half and they were lobbing over the top. We didn't have enough pressure on the ball and they were lobbing and getting easy buckets. After we made that adjustment things went well for us."
Davis, who felt his team was out-matched athletically, liked his game-plan going in. But knew it was a matter of time before Sikeston would figure out a way to defend it.
"Old Holifield, that sucker, he went in there and took my high-low game away," joked Davis. "He knew he had a better athlete that could cover that and he stepped out in that passing lane and took that first pass in the second half. I looked over at (Holifield) and he knew I was in trouble. Because I can't compare athlete to athlete. It worked for a half. I'm just glad we got a half in.
"I knew that game-plan wasn't going to last much longer because I knew coach Holifield would take it away once he got a halftime in. I thought we could get up enough at halftime and then we could get into our delay game. But we couldn't get to that point. They made their changes and that was it."
Fearful of how well DeSoto shoots the ball from the 3-point line, Holifield said he was never tempted to try a zone defense in an effort to slow down Huskey.
"I've seen enough tape on them and know how well they shoot the 3," said Holifield. "That's why we were out playing on the perimeter as hard as we could. I thought we could wear them down if we pressured the ball like that and I think they may have gotten a little leg-weary in the second half."
DeSoto scored the first two baskets of the second half to take its only lead of the game at 29-27 with 6:38 left. But Sikeston immediately responded with a Kash Bratcher 3-pointer to re-take the lead.
It was the beginning of an 11-0 run that put the Bulldogs ahead 38-29. Bratcher connected on another 3-pointer during the run.
DeSoto was able to stop the bleeding momentarily as Huskey got loose a couple times for baskets to cut it to 38-33 with 2:40 left, but Isaac Porter hit a 3-pointer from the left corner and then he scored an offensive putback to give the Bulldogs a 45-34 lead heading into the fourth.
DeSoto never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way as Sikeston steadily pulled away until the final horn.
Michael Porter was held in check to just 10 points with five rebounds, four steals and three assists.
But Bratcher and Isaac Porter both picked up the slack with big games for the Bulldogs. Bratcher finished with 15 points, including three 3-pointers, with four rebounds and a pair of assists. Porter also tied for team-high honors with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"They surrounded Michael, so Kash and Isaac really stepped up and played great," said Holifield.
Rod Moore added nine points with five boards and three assists. Sikeston's second-leading scorer, Julian Beard, struggled from the field and was held to four points, with five rebounds and two steals.
"I knew that Beard wanted to push things and rush things," said Davis. "One of our kids blocked his shot early and it kind of got him rattled. We intentionally tried to rattle him and take him out of the game."
Josh Porter and Rodgers each had a pair of baskets in the second quarter while Taylor handled the ball well and played solid defense. In all, nine different Bulldogs reached the scoring column.
Sikeston was just 23-of-59 (39 percent) shooting from the field.
But DeSoto's shooting wasn't much better, including several point-blank looks early in the game that didn't fall.
"We didn't hit a thing -- our shooting was terrible," said Davis. "Huskey missed a bunch of chippers in the first half. I'm not sure we shouldn't have been up 10 at the half. I thought our game-plan was perfect. But they just out-lasted us. We probably got a little tired."
Huskey ended up with 21 points. No other Dragon cracked double figures. Tyson Davis followed up with nine points.
The team was also limited to just three 3-pointers on the night with two of those coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
"I thought in the first half DeSoto was outstanding," said Holifield. "They played well and I knew they would. Coach Davis and I have coached against each other for years. They played just like I thought they would and they were ready for us. He is an outstanding coach and had them well-prepared."
Sikeston played DeSoto eight times from 1996-2003 with the Bulldogs winning six of those meetings.
The series ended and the two schools didn't meet last season. Davis would like to see the series resume in the future.
"We need to get back to playing each other -- we need to play five times," said Davis. "Because next year we'll probably play them right here again. I've got everybody back and they return a lot too."