flying, athletic Brighton (Tenn.) team in the first round of the Dyersburg Christmas Tournament as they suffered a 73-64 loss at Dyersburg High School Thursday afternoon.
The Cardinals (9-4) could seemingly turn on their pressure defense at will, causing numerous Bulldog turnovers.
That pressure, combined with hot shooting, allowed the Cardinals to break a 56-56 tie in the fourth quarter with an 11-0 run to put the game away.
"They kind of turned it on and turned it off at times," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield, whose team falls to 5-4. "But they're as quick overall as any team we've seen this year, and they can play. They're a good basketball team -- right up there with anybody we've seen."
Sikeston, still without the services of senior forward Ray Rodgers due to a broken hand, managed to stay close to the Cardinals.
Brighton had led through most of the game, holding a 37-29 lead at halftime. Sikeston picked up the intensity in the third quarter to take the lead on two different occasions, but the Bulldogs never could lead by more than one point.
Brighton regrouped to take a 50-46 lead heading into the fourth.
Sikeston tied the score twice in the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals exploded on the 11-0 run that propelled the team to the finish.
"Sikeston picked it up defensively and got more aggressive, and I just told our guys that we had to pick it up another notch and get tougher than they were," said Brighton coach Cetrice Bounds. "The guys listened and got it done."
Brighton led by as much as 11 and Sikeston got no closer than seven in the final two minutes.
"We battled back and put ourselves in a position to win the game," said Holifield. "Then there was a two- or three-minute spurt where they caught fire and we didn't handle it very well."
The scouting report on Brighton indicated that the Cardinals weren't a good perimeter shooting team. With that knowledge, and knowing little else about the Cardinals, Holifield started out in a zone defense -- and Brighton made the Bulldogs pay.
The Cardinals lit it up from the 3-point line, draining six 3-pointers, including five in the first half to build a lead. Brighton led 18-14 after one quarter.
Sikeston took a 24-22 lead in the second quarter, but Brighton's Antonio McCollum drained 3-pointers on three consecutive trips down the floor to open up a seven-point lead.
Brighton led by as much as 37-27 in the second quarter.
"They shot the ball well, but we didn't have enough pressure on the basketball at that point in time," said Holifield. "Overall, playing teams like this will get you better. They have really good post players and their guards can all catch, pass and play well. I really feel like seeing talent like this will help us down the road."
Sikeston's Michael Porter had his way in the paint, scoring a game-high 25 points (10-12 shooting) with seven rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. He scored 20 of his points in the first and fourth quarters.
"Michael really played well -- we were able to get him the ball, but they started collapsing on him in the second half and we didn't get as many touches as he needed," said Holifield. "We've got to do a better job of finding the open man."
Porter's performance left Bounds impressed, not just with him, but the Bulldog team.
"The whole team was good -- that's a team that needs respect," said Bounds. "(Porter) plays great in the post. He's very physical and he knows how to wait for the pass to get to the opposite side and then cut and get in front of the defender. He's a workhorse and he played hard. My hat's off to Sikeston. They're a great team."
Sikeston senior Julian Beard chipped in with 14 points (7-9 shooting), four assists and three steals. Senior Isaac Porter had 13 points, four rebounds and five assists.
The Bulldogs turned the ball over 19 times against the pressure defense by the Cardinals.
Sikeston was just 2-10 from 3-point range and were a very solid 27-43 overall (63 percent).
"It all boils down to guarding and defense," said Holifield. "We had some holes tonight and I didn't think we played very well defensively. When we were energetic and working and getting after it, we were a good basketball team. But that's the way we have to play the entire game. On offense, we got careless with the basketball in situations where we couldn't afford to. Quickness sometimes makes you do that."
Brighton was led by Cortney Powers' 17 points. Senior guard Cabrius Taylor had 16 points, including three 3-pointers. McCollum, Travis Burns and Scott Doby each had 10 points.
"I do have a good ensemble of guards," said Bounds. "They get out and they play hard. They demand respect for themselves and just got out and played. We picked up full-court man and they just went out there and got it done."
Sikeston was scheduled to play Jackson Northside this morning in the consolation bracket. Results from that game will be in Sunday's edition.