SIKESTON -- In the wake of last Friday's disappointing loss to the Scott City Rams, the Sikeston Bulldogs have spent this week to prepare for the stretch run of the regular season.
Sikeston's schedule used to include the Superman Classic this week, but the Bulldogs replaced that tournament with the Dyersburg Christmas Tournament.
As it turns out, the week off couldn't come at a better time for Gregg Holifield's team, which currently stands at 9-6, coincidentally the same record the team had last year after 15 games.
The biggest news of the week is that senior forward Ray Rodgers has been cleared by doctors to resume playing. Rodgers has missed nine games with a broken hand he suffered in a weight lifting accident back in December.
The Bulldogs have gone 5-4 during the stretch, so getting back the bruising Rodgers, who averaged 13.5 points per game and 7.5 rebounds per game, is a welcome sight.
"He's working hard and he's getting back into shape," said Holifield. "We're very excited to have him back. He's such a good offensive and defensive player and a good rebounder so it's going to be an added plus to our team. With everybody else getting healthy, I think it will be a big advantage for us."
Rodgers isn't the only player that's had problems.
Sikeston played Friday's game without senior swingman Isaac Porter, who missed the game due to illness. After spraining his ankle last Wednesday, junior Brandon Washington was doubtful for the Scott City game, but he still suited up despite being hobbled. Also, junior guard Matt Ritch still is not fully recovered from his long bout with the flu.
"The biggest thing about having the week off is we're getting people back," said Holifield. "Ray's back, Brandon Washington's improving from his ankle injury, Isaac is back and doing well and hopefully Matt will be doing better by Tuesday. We're getting healthy, which is a big plus and an advantage for our team. Every team goes through the bumps, bruises and sickness and it just so happens we've gone through that the last three weeks."
Now that the Bulldogs appear to be reaching full strength, Holifield hopes his team starts to focus on each and every game.
"The players are really working hard," said Holifield. "During the course of the season you're going to have ups and downs. Our schedule is difficult -- everybody we play, they're shooting for us. We just have to approach every game the same -- with great intensity and work ethic. We had a lapse the other night, and our players realize that and understand that. But I've been very pleased so far with what we've done in practice this week. I've seen a really positive attitude and a good work ethic."
Sikeston's schedule doesn't get any easier with a home game against SEMO Conference foe Jackson (11-6) on Tuesday.
The Bulldogs follow that up with a road game against Kelly (8-8) on Friday and then a rare Saturday home game against a Portageville team that is 11-2 this season.
"Jackson's a really good team -- it's an important game and a big game," said Holifield. "It's the kind of game you want to be playing at this time of the year.
"Sometimes I don't know if people realize that we've played very few games with our entire team together. Hopefully by Tuesday we'll be back pretty close to healthy. I feel it will be an exciting finish."