In 47 previous games with the Lady Mules, Sikeston had never defeated Poplar Bluff...until game No. 48. The streak of consecutive victories by Poplar Bluff over Sikeston began back in 1977.
"This was a big victory for the program," said Sikeston head coach Fred Johnson. "The girls worked hard for the win and played a good game. Anytime you get a win over Poplar Bluff it is huge. They are coached well and are just hard to beat. It is such a big victory for us. If we put together big wins, at the end of the season we will be primed for districts."
The Lady Bulldogs started out of the gates playing inspired defense and effective offensive. Sikeston played a 2-3 zone the entire game and tried to cut down the penetration of the Lady Mules' guards.
On offense, Sikeston worked the basketball down low to 5-foot-9 sophomore forward Martika Davis, who had six points and four rebounds in the first quarter. With Davis in the post, Sikeston jumped out to a 13-9 lead in the first.
Sandra Pratt, a 5-9 senior forward, helped Poplar Bluff stay close in the first quarter with four points down in the paint.
Sikeston spread out the first quarter lead in the second, with four consecutive points by 5-8 forward Allison Blurton. Blurton put Sikeston up 23-15 with a sweet driving shot in the lane for two points.
On the next possession by Poplar Bluff, Blurton stepped in the passing lane and picked off the pass from the Lady Mules and sprinted the other way for an uncontested layup.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Sikeston held its biggest lead of the half, 25-15. By the end of the second quarter, Sikeston led Poplar Bluff 27-19 heading into the locker room.
Kristin Ploetze, a 5-7 senior guard, led the Lady Mules at half with nine points, three rebounds and three assists. Pratt ended up with eight points at halftime for Poplar Bluff.
Blurton led the scoring for the Lady Bulldogs in the half with 11 points. Davis ended her fine half with 10 points and seven rebounds (three offensive).
Poplar Bluff came out after halftime with renewed intensity. Led by seniors Ploetze and Pratt, the Lady Mules went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter to cut the Sikeston lead to 33-30 with four minutes remaining in the quarter.
For Sikeston, Blurton was the main source of offense and by the end of the third quarter, Sikeston held a 42-38 advantage heading into the final quarter.
Just as in the second quarter when Blurton scored four straight points for Sikeston, Blurton made a driving shot for two points, but this time instead of Blurton getting the steal on the next possession by Poplar Bluff, senior guard Paige Silverthorn came up with the steal and made an excellent leading pass that Blurton took to the hoop for the uncontested layup. With five minutes to go in the game, the Lady Bulldogs led 50-40.
After freshman Jasmin Sumrall hit a 3-pointer for the Lady Mules to put Poplar Bluff down 50-43, Sikeston scored five straight on a Blurton 3-pointer and two free throws by junior Latoya Gipson. Sikeston enjoyed its biggest lead of the game 55-43, with 3:57 remaining in the contest.
Give credit to the Lady Mules, they never said die and increased the intensity on the press. On four consecutive possession with three minutes to go, Sikeston committed four turnovers that Poplar Bluff turned into five consecutive points and trailed 55-48.
"We kind of panicked at the end," said Johnson. "But what do you expect? None of these girls have been in a tight situation like tonight. We did settle down late and executed what was expected of them."
With Poplar Bluff seemingly having all the momentum late in the fourth, Sikeston took the game into their own hands with determination and hustle. First, sophomore Amber Minner drove hard to the goal and was fouled on the shot attempt, sending Minner to the charity stripe for two free throws.
Minner made the first attempt, but missed the second. However, Gipson fought for and received good position to grab the offensive rebound and get the stick-back for two points.
With the three points on one possession, Sikeston increased the lead to 58
-48 and the energy seemed to be drained from the Lady Mules with the hustle and put back from Gipson.
Sikeston led 62-53 with 59 seconds left in the game. Sikeston had the ball and for whatever reason, Poplar Bluff let Sikeston dribble around beyond the three-point line as time ran off the clock.
Poplar Bluff regained possession, but the clock was down to 20 seconds and the game was over after a layup by the Lady Mules making the final score 62
Ploetze paced Poplar Bluff with 19 points, four rebounds (three offensive) and five assists. Pratt finished the game with 14 points. Sumrall pumped in 10 points off the bench for the Lady Mules.
Sophomore point guard Stefanie Ferguson was solid from the position with four points and seven assists to lead the team. Fellow sophomore Caroline Fister had six points and six rebounds.
Poplar Bluff (8-8) had 19 rebounds (nine offensive) and 13 assists as a team against Sikeston. The Lady Mules had nine steals and committed 12 turnovers.
Blurton led the way for Sikeston with 27 points, many of her points were clutch baskets to keep the momentum going for Sikeston down the stretch.
"Blurton played very well tonight," said Johnson. "But we expect games like this from her. Blurton did was she was supposed to do."
Being a senior, the win was very sweet for Blurton.
"It is an awesome feeling to beat Poplar Bluff," said Blurton. "I thought I played decent tonight, but my teammates played very well and it was definitely a team win."
Besides the play of Blurton, Gipson pumped in 11 points and had five rebounds (four offensive). Davis ended up with 10 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Minner had seven points, four rebounds and four assists to led the Lady Bulldogs.
Sikeston grabbed 25 rebounds (13 offensive) and dished out 13 assists as a team. The Lady Bulldogs had eight steals and 16 turnovers for the game.
"It was just a big win for us tonight," said Johnson, "maybe one of the biggest wins in the girls history at Sikeston. It was a team effort with good defense and we rebounded the ball better tonight than other nights."
Sikeston (10-5) will return to action on Monday at home against the Kennett Lady Indians at 6 p.m.