It's only fitting that the tournament championship, in its final year, would come down to two powerhouse programs on Friday night between Blytheville (Ark.) and Charleston at the Sikeston Field House.
With its dominating second half performance Friday, Blytheville secured its first SIT championship since 1998 with a 77-51 victory against Charleston.
The Bluejays (5-1) controlled the entire first half and showed no signs of slowing down as they led 32-25 at halftime.
But the Chickasaws (6-0) came alive in the third quarter with an 11-0 to start things off, taking a 36-32 lead on a Chris Echols slam dunk.
The Chickasaws out-scored Charleston 28-7 in the third quarter and put the game even further out of reach in the fourth quarter, eventually teetering on the mercy clock rule as they led 74-47 late in the game.
"We weren't hitting our shots and Blytheville turned it up a notch," said Charleston coach Danny Farmer. "We got killed on the offensive boards -- we got killed on the boards, period. They had a lot of second shots and they turned up the intensity. They're a very good team."
Echols, a 6-foot-6 senior, scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, with 15 rebounds and three monstrous jams.
"He's athletic, he jumps high, he rebounds well -- it seemed like he took his game to another level," said Farmer. "He's a real good player and he's hard to keep off the boards. He's so big and strong and he moves well. He and the other big guy. That was my concern going into the game, if we could contain the big guys."
Blytheville's other post player, 6-6, 265-pound Chris Brown, scored 14 points with eight rebounds.
But the true catalyst for the Chickasaws' third quarter run as an increase in defensive pressure against the Bluejays, who were playing without point guard Shawn Sherrell due to a thigh injury.
"They were killing us with dribble penetration and we were able to eliminate that a little bit," said Blytheville coach David Hixson. "We got some offensive stuff going and got a roll and it kind of snowballed. Them not having Sherrell was certainly a key. They played extremely well without him in the first half. I don't know if we wore them down a little bit with the guards or not."
Without Sherrell, Charleston relied on freshman Antonio Riggens to run the offense.
At first, he seemed up to the challenge as he scored nine points in the first quarter, leading the Bluejays to an 18-13 advantage after one.
But he didn't score a point the rest of the night and was pressured into some turnovers in the second half.
"It hurt us, but that's not why we lost the game," said Farmer of Sherrell's absence. "He runs the show for us and he's a lot more experienced than (Riggens). That could've given us two ball handlers on the court at the same time. They put pressure on the young kid and he got rattled."
Blytheville's size advantage also forced Charleston 6-5 junior Jamarcus Williams to shoot further and further away from the basket.
Williams did connect on three 3-pointers, but his rebounding presence was missed under the goal.
Williams finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
"We were concerned about him," said Hixson of Williams. "He got out and started shooting the 3-pointers. We certainly had no answer for that if he was hitting them."
Blytheville led 53-39 heading into the fourth quarter as they steadily pulled away from there.
The Chickasaws also got a big game from Cal Rose, who scored 13 of his 19 points in the second half, with five 3-pointers on the night.
Blytheville hit eight 3-pointers as a team while Charleston canned seven from downtown.
Blytheville was 30-of-62 (48 percent) from the field while Charleston shot 21-of-56 (38 percent).
"They looked like a different team than the two times I've seen Blytheville play," said Farmer. "I thought they played great tonight. They played like the No. 1 team in Arkansas tonight."
Tavis Hamilton chipped in nine points with six rebounds and three assists for the Bluejays.
Senior forward Josh Thompson went down with a serious ankle injury in the fourth quarter and did not return. He was expected to be X-rayed after the game.
Charleston played Red Bud (Ill.) in the Perryville Hoopfest Saturday. Results from that game will be in Monday's edition.
Blytheville will host Poplar Bluff on Monday night.
Hixson didn't leave his final Sikeston Tournament without some high praise for the event.
"Let me say this, this is one of the best tournaments we go to and we're really sad that it's not going to be here any longer," said Hixson. "I was telling the kids about the history of this tournament with some of the teams that have been in this tournament. Bootheel basketball is great basketball and there's always unbelievable fans here. I told them it would be a milestone for us to be the last team to win the tournament and have our name etched on that board in the final game of it event. We're pleased and honored and it's been a great tournament to be in."
The Sikeston Invitational Tournament will be replaced by a newly formed SEMO Conference Tournament next season.