CAPE GIRARDEAU -- The Sikeston Bulldogs will be shooting for their sixth straight victory when they take to the road to play Cape Central on Friday night at Cape Central High School.
The Bulldogs, coming off a huge upset victory against state-ranked Poplar Bluff last Friday, have hit stride the last couple weeks.
They enter the contest with a 14-6 record and a 4-2 SEMO Conference record, possessing an outside shot at tying for the league title.
At 12-9 and 2-4 in the league, the Cape Central Tigers may not have the most glamorous record in the SEMO Conference, but the team's talent may be second to none according to Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield.
"They have as much talent as anybody in the area and on given nights they can beat anybody," said Holifield. "They've proven that by beating Jackson and Doniphan. On a given night they're as good as any team in Southeast Missouri."
The Tigers have picked up steam, winning two straight, including Tuesday night's 61-59 win against Jackson.
Cape Central junior center Darnell Wilks, a 6-8 athlete, has big-time talent, averaging 19.4 points per game.
"They have a really good player in Wilks, who is 6-8 and rangy," said Holifield. "He can do a lot of things offensively and defensively. He's one of the most talented players in the area, no doubt about it. He's difficult to contain because he rebounds well, he's good in the open court, he handles the ball well, he can shoot from the perimeter, he can go inside -- he has a lot of weapons."
Joining Wilks is 6-4 senior David Deisher, who adds 13.3 points per game. Jeremy Kimble, a 6-0 sophomore pumps in 8.0 ppg and sophomore guard Adrian Cox scores 8.8 ppg. Sophomore Jajuan Bell averages about 7.0 ppg.
Cox and Bell, who canned five 3-pointers and had 21 points against the Bulldogs last year as a freshman, are the top shooters on the team.
"He hurt us last year and I've seen him shoot it well this year," said Holifield of Bell. "But he's not the only one, they have other players on that team that can shoot it and are athletic. We just have to contain Wilks and know where the good shooters are."
Some of the Tigers' inconsistent play can be attributed to being a young team, sporting several sophomores and juniors.
"We're one of the youngest teams in the SEMO Conference this year," said Cape Central coach Derek McCord. "We have five sophomores and three juniors in our top 10 rotation. We've got a lot of youth and inexperience so we've had our ups and downs. That's typical with a young team. Our goal is to try to peak at district tournament time. We think we're playing our best ball right now but we've still got a lot of room for improvement."
Sikeston defeated Cape Central seven times in a row from 1999-2003, but the Tigers have turned the tables and have won their last two against the Bulldogs.
"They play real well at home and it's going to be a tough game," said Holifield. "But these are the games we want to play at this time of the year. We need to play in a tough environment to help us prepare for the district tournament."
The Bulldogs have been led by freshman standout Michael Porter, who leads the team in points (14.3), rebounds (7.3) and blocks (3.0) and is one of the leaders in assists (3.0).
Senior Rod Moore follows up with 12.5 points and six rebounds per game. Junior guard Julian Beard scored 12 ppg while senior guard Kash Bratcher adds 11 ppg and four assists per game.
Junior Isaac Porter scores 8.0 ppg and dishes out 4 apg.
Juniors Ray Rodgers and Blake Taylor score 6.5 and 5.0 off the bench, respectively.
"We're going to have to play awfully well and try to contain Moore and Michael Porter on the glass," said McCord. "I'm not so sure Julian Beard isn't their best rebounder -- we couldn't keep him off the glass last year. You've got to always be aware of where Kash is -- once he steps across halfcourt he's in range.
"The thing that concerns us the most is their experience and leadership at the guard spot. Julian Beard, Kash Bratcher and Isaac Porter have played a lot of varsity ball, so they've got a lot of veteran leadership and court savvy with those guys. They've got a lot of new faces and Gregg has really done a good job of getting those kids to gel and mesh together, plus they're playing hard."
The road doesn't get any easier for the Bulldogs, who will play Saturday afternoon in St. Louis against perennial power Parkway Central.
Sikeston will finish out its regular season schedule with home games against New Madrid County Central and Kennett on Tuesday and Friday, respectively.
"We've had some good games and have been consistent the last two or three weeks," said Holifield. "The players are working hard and we've had some good practices. We just look forward to playing more games and hopefully keep playing well heading into the district tournament."