opener to the Blytheville Chickasaws on Tuesday, losing 71-63 at the Sikeston Field House.
The Chickasaws, sporting an enormous front-line, was simply too strong in the paint for the smaller Bulldogs.
And even when Sikeston collapsed in tight on the big players, the Chickasaws had the ability to step out and hit 3-pointers.
But Sikeston was able to hang tough with its quickness and tough pressure defense.
"We did a good job of pressuring the basketball in the second half," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "We created some turnovers and I thought our energy level was very good. That's how we have to play because we're not very big. We were giving up several inches inside."
Blytheville's two inside players, 6-foot-6, 265-pound Chris Brown and 6-6, 210-pound Chris Echols, scored 23 and 16 points respectively.
"They're not only good post players, but they're very big," said Holifield. "And that was a problem. So then we went zone, and they shot the ball so well. You have to pick your poison with them."
The Chickasaws drained six 3-pointers, five of which came in the first half.
Blytheville led virtually the entire game. They led by as much as 14 points in the third quarter but the Bulldogs never went away.
The Bulldogs eventually cut the lead to 56-51 with five minutes left and had the lead down to 69-63 with less than a minute to go, but a Rod Moore 3-
pointer, which could have made it a one possession game, was off the mark.
The Chickasaws' (3-0) Jeff Echols hit a pair of free throws to seal the game.
Earlier in the quarter, Sikeston's Kash Bratcher hit a 30-foot 3-pointer which brought back some bitter memories for Blytheville coach David Hixson.
"Bratcher cranked that long 3, that was deja vu from last year -- I thought, 'oh, here they come,'" said Hixson, referring to Bratcher's fourth quarter 18-
point, six 3-point barrage in defeating Blytheville. "It's kind of like having a bad cough, they never go away. They've got a good squad. They're well-
coached and very athletic. We had a hard time with them with penetration and we had a very difficult time keeping them off the boards. They got a bunch of points just out-hustling and out-working us. That was impressive for them."
After taking a 2-0 lead when Julian Beard stole the ball and scored a layup, Blytheville never trailed again.
The Chickasaws went on a 12-2 run and took control of the game. Blytheville eventually led 20-10 after one quarter highlighted by two Echols slam dunks.
The Bulldogs managed to keep the game close in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 35-28, but Shontrell Johnson came off the bench to hit a pair of 3-pointers, including one at the second quarter horn to keep the lead at 38
The Chickasaws started the third quarter strong with Echols starting things off with his third jam of the game, to lead 42-30.
Blytheville led by as much as 50-36 before the Bulldogs came storming back again keyed by three consecutive transition layups by Rod Moore.
A Beard basket with five seconds left in the third cut the lead to 54-47.
But the Bulldogs never could get closer than five points the rest of the way. Brown scored 12 points in the final quarter.
"We just kind of hung in there in a very tough environment," said Hixson. "The momentum would swing their way and we would answer with a big bucket to keep them at bay. They kind of took us out of what we wanted to do -- they've got good pressure defense. We were never really able to get comfortable in our offense. When we did execute our offense, we were very effective. But there was a lot of times that we didn't do that. We were just happy to get a win and get out of here, especially in this place. This is not an easy place to play. It's a great atmosphere."
After Brown and Echols, Cal Rose followed up with 12 points and Jeff Echols added 10 points.
Beard led the Bulldogs with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting. He also had three rebounds and three steals. Moore had 10 points, all in the third quarter, with eight rebounds and two steals.
Freshman Michael Porter came off the bench with 10 points, three rebounds and a blocked shot in two quarters of action.
Ray Rogers had seven points. Isaac Porter had six points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Bratcher had seven points with eight assists, but he was just 1-of-8 from downtown.
"We paid special attention to (Bratcher)," said Hixson. "We knew he could shoot. But they've got other guys that can hit. They all can stroke it. The thing you always worry about is when they start hitting them. You just kind of held your breath every time they shot it because we've seen it happen before. I closed my eyes on about half of them."
Sikeston was just 3-of-17 from 3-point range on the night.
The Bulldogs did grab 32 rebounds and only turned the ball over nine times.
"We did rebound pretty well at times," said Holifield. "I think keeping fresh bodies in there helped us. We're quick off our feet and that's the way you have to do it against a bigger team. We've got a lot of work to do and a long ways to go -- we'll get there. That was a really good team. They're well-
schooled and they've played together for a while. We just have to keep working to get better. It's going to take some time. It's the first game of the year and we'll just work on it some more."
Sikeston will play at Dexter on Friday at 6 p.m. for a SEMO Conference game.
Sikeston's jayvee team lost its first game of the year, falling 54-45 to Blytheville, a team they had defeated last Wednesday in the Notre Dame Tournament.
The Bulldogs (3-1) led 25-24 at the half but couldn't muster any offense in the second half.
They trailed 36-32 after three quarters and trailed by double digits for most of the fourth quarter.
Sikeston was led by Dominique McCray's 15 points. Ashtin Hubbard followed up with eight points, four assists and two blocks. Brandon Washington had seven points and Michael Porter had six points, seven rebounds and two blocks in two quarters of action.