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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Bulldogs one win from the Final Four

Friday, March 3, 2006

FARMINGTON -- It's been 11 years since the Sikeston Bulldogs have made it this deep in the state playoffs.

The last time was in 1995 when the Bulldogs reached the Class 4A Quarterfinals where they defeated Hazelwood Central to reach the Show Me Showdown in Columbia.

After a 64-45 victory against DeSoto in Wednesday's sectional round, Sikeston (21-6) is back in the quarterfinals where they will take on St. James tomorrow night at 8:15 p.m. at the Farmington Civic Center.

The St. James Tigers (19-9) will be one of the few teams on Sikeston's schedule that are at a size disadvantage.

But what they lack in height, they make up for with precision offense, tremendous 3-point shooting and quickness.

"They're a good team," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield, whose team has won 12 straight games. "They're quick, they handle the ball well. They have a real good player in (Chad) Shockley. They like to spread you out and they do a lot of good things offensively. Plus they're a solid man-to-man defensive team."

Some have described St. James' offense as similar to Princeton, utilizing backdoor cuts and screening to offset pressure defense.

In other words, it's the perfect type of offense to counter Sikeston's pressure defense.

"We're going to have to guard them because they shoot the 3 extremely well," said Holifield. "But they're also good at spreading you out and backdoor cutting. They like to dribble-penetrate and kick for the 3."

The Tigers have two players that have hit more than 40 3-pointers this season and four other players that have made at least 16 treys.

"For the last several years we've tended to have pretty good shooting teams," said St. James coach Ben Smith. "This year we've been real streaky and other times we've been real hot. We do shoot a lot of them but we almost have to because of our size. We kind of use it as an equalizer. When we get an open look, we'll take it if it's there."

St. James is led by 6-foot, 200-pound senior Chad Shockley who leads the team with 15.3 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game.

Austin Walls, a 6-foot junior averages 12.2 ppg and leads the team with 43 steals this year. He's also the team's top free throw shooter and is second in 3-pointers made (45).

Five-foot-10 junior J.J. Jackson scores 9.0 ppg and Scott Thompson, the team's top 3-point shooter, scores 8.3 ppg.

The Tigers, however, were dealt a blow in the district tournament when 6-3, 205-pound junior Zane Garr went down for the season with a knee injury. He is the team's tallest player and second best rebounder.

Matt Wools has filled Garr's starting position. While he doesn't possess as much size at 5-10, he is an accurate 3-point shooter, hitting 41 percent.

Damon Thomas, a 6-1 sophomore, has seen increased playing time since the injury. He averages 4.4 ppg and is third on the team with 5.2 rpg. He dislocated his ring finger in Wednesday's sectional game but should be ready to go for game time.

Blake Woolsey, a 5-11 sophomore, comes off the bench and provides strong outside shooting.

"We're not real big -- we're pretty quick and we've got good guard play," said Smith. "We depend on our guards to do an awful lot especially with the injury to our biggest guy. We've had to adjust accordingly since then."

Smith says he's received plenty of information on Sikeston and knows his team will have to prepare for a team that may be equally as quick as his own.

"Looks to me like they put an awful lot of pressure on you defensively and they're able to get out in transition and score a lot of points," said Smith. "In some respects we match up well with them. From what I've seen from them, they seem to be very well-coached and a really intense defensive style. We haven't played a whole lot of teams that have been as quick as us this year and I would imagine that they probably haven't either."

St. James has won nine district championships with this year's being its second in the last three years.

The Tigers have had playoff success before, winning a 2A state championship in 1976 and have had three other semifinal appearances.

The Tigers have won eight of their last nine games, including Wednesday's upset victory against state-ranked Kennedy, 49-48 in overtime. There are no common opponents between St. James and Sikeston.

"Their record is misleading because they've played good people," said Holifield. "Of the games they've lost, most of them were close games. They are a good team and we're going to have to play well to beat them."

The Bulldogs' Michael Porter will be the tallest player on the court tomorrow night. The 6-3 freshman averages 15 ppg and 7 rpg.

Julian Beard averages 13 ppg followed up by Rod Moore's 12 ppg. Senior Kash Bratcher averages 10 ppg and Isaac Porter pumps in 9 ppg.

Ray Rodgers, Blake Taylor, Cortne Beasley and Josh Porter all see significant playing time off the bench.

"We're going to have to be patient on offense and get good shot selection," said Holifield. "We need to try to pound the ball inside and get easy buckets. I think we were a little jittery the other night against DeSoto. I think our shot selection wasn't very good in the first half. I thought in the second half we settled down and played pretty well. I feel like we'll play better Saturday than we did on Wednesday."