(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs came into Friday evening's match-up against the Kennett Indians with three things at stake. A win would give them a share of the SEMO Conference Championship, a 21-3 regular season record, their best in decades, and a solid victory heading into the district tournament.
The Bulldogs wrapped all three up, as they defeated their visiting opponent 73-47. The part-ownership of the SEMO Conference Championship is the first for Sikeston since 1995, which eventually led to a Final Four appearance.
"It's a good win for us," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield of the victory. "Number one, we're the co-champions in the SEMO Conference with Jackson. That's such a difficult thing to do, to win the conference championship."
The ball game actually began evenly matched, as the Bulldogs jumped out early, 7-2, only to see the lead disappear with a few minutes remaining in the first quarter. The home team finished the quarter on a 6-0 run to lead after one, 21-17.
The Bulldogs kept the run alive at the start of the second quarter, and behind Michael Porter and Cal Lane field goals, stretched their lead to 25-17.
Randrick Caruthers put a temporary halt to the run with a field goal to give the Indians 18, but then Sikeston went on another huge run of 15 unanswered points to bust the game wide open at 40-18.
After one half, Kennett trailed 44-24, but despite the large lead, the big news for the home team was Brandon Washington heading to the locker room early with a sprained ankle. Washington's status is uncertain heading into districts this week.
Opening up the third quarter, the two teams exchanged baskets often, but the Bulldogs outmatched their opponent, outscoring the Indians 19-13 in the quarter. Lane and Porter provided plenty of excitement for the crowd, as Porter racked up eight points while Lane brought the crowd to their feet with a dunk in front of the Sikeston bench.
Heading into the final eight minutes the Bulldogs had a commanding lead, 63-36.
Kennett managed to outscore Sikeston in the fourth quarter, 11-10, but not before Ritch added two more 3-pointers. After his fifth 3-pointer of the game, Ritch headed to the bench on Senior Night with 21 points. The Bulldogs finished off the Indians by a final score of 73-47.
"It was great," Ritch said of the victory on Senior Night. "This place, I'm never going to forget it. There are no home games like it around here. To go out on a win on Senior Night was awesome."
A big part of Sikeston's success Friday evening, was their ability to contain the glass. The Bulldogs pulled down 28 defensive rebounds and 10 on the offensive end of the floor.
The team shot over 50 percent from the floor, including seven 3-pointers.
Ritch led Sikeston in scoring with 21 points, while Porter was close behind with 16 points, six rebounds and four blocks. Lane was the other Bulldog in double-figures with 13 points and six rebounds.
"I thought we played good, and very well at times," said Holifield. "Offensively, I thought we were pushing the ball, doing some good things. Overall, I was pleased with the effort."
When asked how big the win was heading into district play, Holifield was quick to reply.
"It was big," he said. "You need momentum. I think we've won 14 out of our last 15. We've been playing well the last two months of the season."
"We've just got to continue on," he added. "Because, we know it's going to be a difficult task in the district tournament. We've got to go in there ready to work and ready to get after it."
For the visiting Indians, Jarvis Finley provided the most offense with 14 points, including two 3-pointers. Blake Parr added seven points and six rebounds.
Up next for the Bulldogs is the winner of the Ste. Genevieve vs Dexter game in the district tournament. Sikeston's game is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Perry Park Center in Perryville on Wednesday evening.
"Dexter is very similar (to Notre Dame)," said Holifield. "They play a very similar style, and I'm anxious to see who wins that game Monday. It'll be my first look at Ste. Genevieve. We'll have an opportunity to go from there once we find out."
Holifield added that the Bulldogs had a good regular season, but now they have to get to work and finish the season off right in districts.
In junior varsity action, the Sikeston Bulldogs were victorious over the Kennett Indians by a final score of 71-67. The Bulldogs finished up the season with an overall record of 16-5.