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Sikeston loses to talented Borgia squad in title game

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sikeston's Rod Moore puts up a shot.
COLUMBIA -- The Sikeston Bulldogs have seen plenty of top guards this season.

But they may not have seen a better one than St. Francis Borgia senior Alex Moosmann.

Moosmann scored a game-high 26 points on Saturday afternoon to lead Borgia to a 77-62 victory against the Bulldogs in the Class 4 state championship game at Mizzou Arena.

It's Borgia's fourth state championship and the first since 1998.

For Sikeston, it was a disappointing finish to one of the greatest seasons in school history.

Sikeston's Julian Beard looks to pass over St. Francis Borgia's Alex Moosman.
The second place finish is the highest ever for the Bulldogs (23-7). They also took fourth in 1995, the only other time they reached the state semifinals.

In Saturday's championship game, Borgia proved to be too effective on offense with numerous options.

The Knights (30-1) showed the ability to drain 3-pointers or pound it inside to a pair of 6-foot-5 senior post players in 235-pound Shea Carr or 215-

pound Pat Boland.

It was a deadly combination.

A disappointed Kash Bratcher holds the second place trophy.
"We knew how good they were. Up close and personal, they're even better than I thought they were," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "They have so many weapons. Their post game is really good and their guards are outstanding. (Moosmann), he's as good as any guard we've competed against all season."

And when Moosmann wasn't shooting, the Knights found Carr inside, who finished with 18 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Carr also defended Bulldog leading scorer Michael Porter, using his size and girth to keep the freshman from posting up deep inside.

"He wore us out -- he's a big, strong kid," said Holifield. "He gets great position and has soft hands. He presented many, many problems for us, offensively and defensively."

But even with Borgia seemingly hitting on all cylinders, the Bulldogs never went away.

Sikeston trailed just 66-57 with 5:09 left in the game. Borgia then went into a delay game as they ran nearly two minutes off the clock.

When Sikeston was forced to foul, Borgia came through from the free throw line, hitting 9-of-10 down the stretch to ice the game.

Borgia hit 14-of-16 free throws in the game. Sikeston, which drained 31-of

-36 free throws in Friday's semifinal victory against Ozark, only made 4-of-6 on Saturday.

The two teams started the game on fire as they were tied 17-17 less than five minutes into the contest. There were six ties and five lead changes in the first quarter alone.

Sikeston held its last lead of the game on a Julian Beard basket to take a 17

-15 advantage.

Borgia finished the quarter on a 10-0 run to take a 25-17 lead.

"I knew we had problems because we were scoring and we couldn't stop them," said Holifield. "We've been able to guard people most of the season but they had too many weapons."

Borgia was 10-for-17 (59 percent) from the field, including three 3-pointers in the first quarter.

"Fortunately we were hot," said Borgia coach David Neier, in his 19th year at the school. "If you watched the opening of the game, holy cow -- what a pace. Both teams just going up and down the court. If we weren't hot, they could've buried us in that first quarter."

The Bulldogs made eight of their first 11 shots as they shredded the Knights' full-court press and halfcourt trap.

But the Bulldogs turned it over five times and only got one shot off over the final three minutes of the quarter.

Holifield said once the Knights backed off the press, the Bulldogs struggled to find shots.

"When they started the game they were more up tempo and pressing us and giving us opportunities and we took advantage of that and got some easy looks," said Holifield. "They quickly made the adjustments, which I knew they would, and backed up and covered our strengths."

The Knights' hot shooting continued in the second quarter as they opened up a double-digit lead. They led by as much as 14 late in the quarter, but Blake Taylor nailed a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to make it 45-34.

The Knights were 6-of-12 from 3-point range in the first half and they had just two turnovers.

"Offensively, I thought it was one of our better games," said Neier. "We were able to find the openings, find the open man and get good shots."

Sikeston's best chance to get back in the game came in the third quarter as they trailed 49-40 with 5:12 left in the period.

But the Bulldogs missed two close shots that could have cut the lead to seven points.

Borgia finished the quarter strong and held on for a 60-46 lead heading into the fourth.

The Bulldogs turned up the defensive pressure in the fourth quarter as the Knights began to fatigue somewhat. The strategy worked as Borgia had four turnovers and became a little leg weary on their shots.

But the deficit was too much to overcome and the Knights' took care of business from the free throw line.

"When you don't have time to prepare, you know back to back nights, it's very difficult to beat a team as solid as they are," said Holifield.

Bulldog junior Julian Beard capped a stellar showing over the weekend at Mizzou Arena by leading the Bulldogs with 14 points, 12 coming in the first half. He also had five rebounds and four assists.

Moosmann, who has signed with Miami, Ohio, said his team witnessed the Bulldogs' athleticism in person on Friday night against Ozark.

"After watching the previous game, (Beard) came in and had one of the best dunks I've seen in a while so we knew they were very athletic," said Moosmann. "It's a lot tougher playing against really athletic teams. We had to close out well and keep the freshman (Porter) out of the lane and just box out because they were monsters on the boards. Those were the keys to the game."

Porter overcame a slow start to finish with 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists. He scored nine points in the fourth quarter when Sikeston tried to make a comeback.

Bulldog senior Rod Moore added 13 points and Kash Bratcher scored 11 points with three 3-pointers.

One day after making a season-high seven 3-pointers against Ozark, the Bulldogs topped that with eight 3-pointers against Borgia.

"Defensively, we were a little worried at times," said Neier. "Man, they poured in so many 3s it seemed like they weren't ever gonna miss. Their other kids underneath, the way they were able to score -- we were a little concerned. Michael Porter kind of took over inside and Rod Moore probably had one of his best games. They had a lot of weapons."

So did Borgia.

In addition to Moosmann's high-point game, he also had five assists and went 9-10 from the charity stripe.

Senior guard David Holdmeier finished with 16 points, with three 3-pointers, with nine assists and five rebounds.

Boland had six points with nine rebounds.

Borgia out-rebounded the Bulldogs 37-31.

The Bulldogs will lose six seniors to graduation, including two starters.

"We have a young team and we're losing some good seniors," said Holifield. "They've led us to a great season. We do have some players coming back and we're looking forward to getting started. It's valuable experience to be playing in this atmosphere to play against this caliber of competition. Once you get to this level, everybody's going to be good. You just have to improve on it and learn from it. We played two teams up here this weekend that were a handful."

The playoff run was even sweeter for the Bulldogs after coming off back-to-

back losing seasons for the first time since 1998.

"It was fun -- I never thought we'd get this opportunity but we made it," said Moore. "We came and played as a team."

Bratcher, who also scored 21 points in the semifinals, was emotional after the game.

"I'm just glad we made it to the state championship game," said a teary-eyed Bratcher. "I'm proud of the team, proud of the coaches."

Holifield said, despite the team's struggles the past couple seasons, he knew his team had the ingredients to make a run for a state title.

"We had a good group of seniors last year with great work ethic and there were so many games we were right there," said Holifield. "They were so close to getting over the hump and never could quite get there. I really thought with the returning players we had that we had a chance. I knew with the experience we had back that we could get over the hump."

And get over the hump they did. And then some.

Few gave the Bulldogs much of a chance to make it to Columbia, but they began to turn heads in late January as they started to rattle off impressive victories, including a 67-62 win against two-time defending Class 5 state champion Poplar Bluff.

Holifield could tell during the stretch run that his team was starting to peak.

"These guys have been through a lot of tough wars," said Holifield. "We play a really tough schedule and they get an opportunity to play against good people. They competed and battled and had terrific work ethic throughout the course of the season that's allowed us to get better every day. At one point in time we were 9-6 and then we went on a 14-game winning streak, playing against good people too.

"I have not been disappointed one day in practice the past two months. They've come in to work and get better. We just came up a game short."

Holifield also had comments about the Bulldog fan support -- an estimated 2-3,000 made the four-hour trek to Columbia.

"We just had great support all season," said Holifield. "Every single night in the Field House we had great fan support. Our facility seats probably 3,000-

to-3,500 people and and on many nights we had that full.

"We had great student support, great fan support throughout the town and you just can't ask for enough. We had a bunch of people here today and I'm proud of that."