SIKESTON -- It's only December, but tonight's game between Sikeston and Notre Dame could have an impact on the district tournament in February.
With Sikeston ranked No. 2 and Notre Dame No. 5 in the state, the two teams are clearly the two favorites in the Class 4, District 1 Tournament and the winner of tonight's game could have the inside track at getting the top seed in the tournament.
Last year Sikeston beat Notre Dame and was awarded the No. 1 seed. The same could happen this year, but Bulldog head coach Gregg Holifield isn't thinking about that right now.
His sights are set on Notre Dame.
"It's going to be a tough game -- Notre Dame's a very good basketball team," said Holifield. "We had two tough games against them last year and I've seen them play this year. I think they're a really good team and it's a team that our players have a lot of respect. We know they'll come in here and battle and play hard."
But if Sikeston is to defeat Notre Dame, they'll have to do it without the services of starting senior forward Ray Rodgers, who is the third-leading scorer on the team and the second-leading rebounder.
Rodgers broke a bone in his hand in a weight-lifting accident on Wednesday. He is expected to miss a minimum of three to five weeks of action.
"Injuries are part of the game and we're going to be without Ray for a few weeks," said Holifield. "We will have to have players step up and I'm confident our players will do so. It'll be a challenge for us, but to be a good team you have to battle through injuries."
In Rodgers' absence, Sikeston may go with a four-guard lineup.
"We play eight people basically so we'll spread the time out," said Holifield. "Players that are playing will get more minutes and I expect them to produce."
Sikeston enters the game with a 4-2 record, owing losses to defending Arkansas state champion Blytheville, 68-66 in the season-opener, and a 79
-72 setback in the championship game of the SEMO Conference Tournament against Charleston.
Notre Dame (6-1) captured first place in the Woodland Invitational Tournament and finished third in the SEMO Conference Tournament, losing its only game so far this year in the semifinals to Charleston.
The Bulldogs have won three of the last four against Notre Dame in a rivalry that is intensifying with each passing season, including a classic in the district championship game last year.
Notre Dame graduated four starters from that team, but Holifield says they have reloaded this season.
"There's no doubt about it that Notre Dame is one of the favorites in our district. We want to come out and play well against them," said Holifield. "We knew they had a bunch of young players that shoot the basketball real well. Plus (Ryan) Willen has just become so much better. Also Dirnberger and Ty Williams have gotten so much better. We just know that we're going to have to play well to beat them. We've had some great battles with them over the past few years. It's one of those games both teams get up for so the fans should see an exciting game."