(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs' inconsistencies finally caught up to them Thursday night when the Jackson Indians leaned on a big second half to propel them to a thrilling 74-69 overtime victory in the semifinals of the SEMO Conference Tournament.
As has been the case in all of their outings this season, the Bulldogs had one strong half of basketball, jumping out to a 39-27 lead at the half. But a sluggish second half filled with turnovers, defensive breakdowns and missed free throws allowed Jackson to tie and eventually win the game in overtime.
"I thought we played well in the first half," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "We came out and did some good things. In the second half we just were not the same team. We were doing a lot of standing and weren't very aggressive.
"They were taking advantage of us and we just weren't getting the job done as far as offensively and defensively."
"In the second half we were patient but yet aggressive," said Jackson head coach Darrin Scott. "I thought we did a much better job offensively getting the shots and getting the things we wanted."
Jackson's Jake Leet benefited from the patient, yet aggressive play, scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime periods, finishing the game with 22.
Leet knocked down a 3-pointer to close the Indians to 49-48 early in the fourth and gave the Indians the lead in overtime when followed his own missed shot, putting in the rebound to give Jackson a 63-61 lead. After Sikeston tied the game at 63, Leet hit a 3-pointer to give Jackson which sealed the lead for good.
"They did a great job coming back and did a good job screening and getting Leet open," Holifield said. "We had a hard time getting through them and to their credit they made tough shots and handled the basketball extremely well."
Unfortunately for Sikeston, Leet wasn't Jackson's only weapon.
"I thought Hunter Grantham and Spencer Goodman both did a good job tonight in the post," Scott said. "Antonio Garritano, who had foul trouble earlier, also played great when he was in there and did a great job of scoring. When you have a good balance of inside outside ball movement, that helps to generate open looks and when we don't have that ball movement were not very good offensively."
Sikeston used similar ball movement in the first half to build their big lead, pounding the ball inside to Michael Porter. The junior scored 16 points in the first half in helping the Bulldogs establish their lead.
When Sikeston wasn't pounding the ball inside, they were beating the Indians down the floor in transition, scoring easy baskets including a crowd-pleasing slam dunk by Brandon Washington off a missed shot.
"They've got a lot of great athletes," Scott said. "I thought we came out and their athleticism intimidated us. We were playing too quick on offense, taking a lot of quick shots. Not being patient taking shots in rhythm."
In the second half, Jackson focused on the Bulldog inside game as Porter often faced three defenders when he got the ball. Unable to get the ball inside, the Bulldogs had several turnovers trying to force the issue.
"We had some careless turnovers," Holifield said. "We just didn't get it done. We're young in spots and you got to be in these types of games to learn how to succeed and hopefully this will help us down the road."
Sikeston also struggled from the free throw line, going 5-for-15 while Jackson hit 17-of-28.
"It's just one of those things that you got to be in these situations to learn and hopefully we'll get better from it and we've got to improve from the free throw line and we've got to improve on handling the basketball," Holifield said. "But the biggest thing we got to improve on is that we have got to be able to guard and shut people down in the fourth quarter."
Sikeston (3-1) will try to bounce back after their first loss when they face Notre Dame tonight in the third place game at 7 p.m. while Jackson will take on Charleston for the championship at 8:30 p.m.