But an all-too-familiar trend reared its ugly head as the Bulldogs blew another big lead, only to watch Portageville rally and escape with an improbable 64-63 victory at the Field House.
Portageville's Trey Mosby hit 1-of-2 free throws to give his team its only lead of the night with 17 seconds left.
Sikeston's Blake Taylor got off a floater in the lane with six seconds left. The ball bounced on the rim several times before falling off. After a wild scramble for the rebound, the ball finally was scooped up by Mosby who dribbled out the remaining two seconds on the clock.
Portageville's players stormed the floor in celebration. Sikeston stood by in stunned silence.
"It was an unbelievable comeback," said Portageville coach Jim Bidewell, who seemed overcome with emotions after the game. "I feel like we can check our stuff in, pack it in, lets call it a season and end on a good note."
While Portageville (12-3) has hit its high point of the season, Sikeston (10-8) is going in reverse, searching for answers.
The Bulldogs have now lost three of their last four games, with a disturbing trend of late-game collapses coming to the forefront.
Five of Sikeston's eight losses this year have come after holding at least a five-point lead in the fourth quarter.
But none were as hard to swallow as Saturday.
Sikeston looked unstoppable, racing out to a 25-4 first-quarter lead and maintaining a 20-point lead late in the third quarter.
Portageville managed to cut the lead to 16 points by the end of the third quarter, but Sikeston was still in complete control.
The visiting Bulldogs quickly closed the gap to 10 points, then nine, then seven. Sikeston appeared powerless to stop it.
The Bulldogs built the lead by pounding the ball in to all-state sophomore forward Michael Porter, but the team began a delay tactic to run some clock in the fourth quarter.
It completely backfired.
Instead, Portageville's defense turned up the intensity, recording numerous steals and converting them into layups.
In addition, Portageville, normally a below-average perimeter shooting team, got hot from beyond the arc. The Bulldogs hit five 3-pointers in the game, including three in the fourth quarter.
Sikeston didn't help themselves as they went 1-4 from the free- throw line in the fourth quarter.
"We just did a bad job down the stretch," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "I thought we played well up to that point. We built a big lead, but we couldn't hold on to it. We quit attacking offensively and defensively and we started standing a lot. We're just not a good basketball team when we do those things. We've got to learn to be aggressive on both ends of the floor. In the last quarter, we sure weren't that."
Despite Portageville's comeback, Sikeston held a 61-56 lead with 1:28 left in the game.
The visiting Bulldogs cut the lead to 61-60, but Porter responded with a bank shot with 46 seconds left to push the lead back to three.
Just nine seconds later, Mosby hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to tie the game for the first time all night.
Sikeston came back on offense and Julian Beard attempted a 3-pointer from the right corner, but his shot was partially blocked by Mosby, who came up with the loose ball. Beard then fouled Mosby with 17 seconds left, sending the senior to the line for what turned out to be the winning point.
Mosby finished with 23 points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and three blocked shots. He scored 19 of his points in the second half and had 13 in the fourth quarter.
All this while still recovering from a broken arm he suffered during football season.
"Trey's a competitor," said Bidewell. "If we're picking guys on a team that just decides we're not going to lose, he's the one you pick. Even though he's real limited on his ball-handling, he's showing a lot of senior leadership."
Porter finished with a career-high 36 points on an incredible 14-of-16 shooting (88 percent) to go with his seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
"I kept telling our kids, 'that's the way you're supposed to play,'" said Bidewell of Porter. "I kept telling our big kids, 'that kid's playing and you guys aren't.' I think our kids took that challenge. In the second half they wanted to show that they've got a little game themselves."
Porter appeared well on his way to having an off-the-charts night as he scored 18 points in the first quarter and had 27 at the half. But Portageville began to surround him with defenders in the second half, holding him to nine points and just four in the fourth quarter.
"They made some nice adjustments and put two or three people around him and did a good job of shutting him down," said Holifield. "We quit attacking also, that had a lot to do with it. We started standing and spread it out too much. We should've kept on attacking as you look back on it."
Bidewell also pointed out that his 6-foot-5 freshman, Kony Ealy, stepped up his defensive game with Porter.
"I normally don't like to give freshmen too much bragging, but Kony did a great job on Porter that last quarter," said Bidewell. "We've been trying to get him to concentrate on defense and rebounding. He wasn't doing that early and he caught on and realized that it's a lot more fun to play than it is to sit the bench. When he got in there, he stepped up."
Ealy finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
In the first quarter, Sikeston held a 21-point lead, but Portageville was able to cut the lead to 27-10 by the end of the period.
Portageville got as close as 30-21 on an Estes 3-pointer in the second quarter, but Sikeston was able to push the lead back to 44-28 by halftime.
In the third quarter, Portageville didn't get any closer than 14 points as Sikeston took a 56-40 lead into the fourth quarter, where the visiting Bulldogs' comeback began.
"They showed a lot of character and pride," said Holifield of Portageville. "Mosby stepped up and really played big-time there in the last quarter. He was the difference in the game. He basically took their team on his shoulders and stepped up and was quite a team leader for them down the stretch. The bottom line is we've got to put ourselves in a position to hammer teams when we have them down by 20 points. We struggle in that aspect right now."
Last week against an undefeated Malden team, Portageville rallied from a 16-
point deficit, only to fall in the final seconds.
Saturday, Bidewell's Bulldogs finished the deal.
"This is the biggest win of the year, no doubt," said Bidewell. "Even though it's not a conference game or whatever, we know that Sikeston is one of the more elite teams in the area -- them and Malden. We played a good game against Malden last week and barely lost, but we pulled this one out tonight. We still have a long way to go to win our district or even our conference, but at least we're a whole lot better than we were at Christmas."
Portageville had several unsung heroes in the game, such as junior Mikey Johnson, who had four points with five steals and a pair of charges drawn. Estes scored six of his eight points in the fourth quarter.
"It was definitely a team effort," said Bidewell. "You're not going to beat a team like that unless you play like a team. We've been doing a lot of conditioning and I think it paid off there at the end. We owed Sikeston one. They beat us last year at our place when we had a big lead. I guess Gregg and I are even on this one."
In last year's game, Portageville led by 11 points in the fourth quarter. Sikeston rallied to tie the game on a shot at the buzzer by Porter, sparking the team to victory in overtime.
But Saturday, Sikeston couldn't get the final shot to fall.
"We couldn't have gotten a much better shot," said Holifield of Taylor's final shot. "We're about a couple feet away from the goal and it just didn't go down."
Sikeston out-rebounded Portageville 28-25. Sikeston committed 19 turnovers compared to 20 for Portageville.
After Porter, no other player reached double figures in scoring for Sikeston.
Brandon Washington came off the bench for seven points. Ray Rodgers had six points, five rebounds and four steals.
Beard, the Bulldogs' second-leading scorer, was held to six points on 2-7 shooting with seven rebounds. Mosby spent most of the game guarding Beard.
Sikeston shot 24-49 (49 percent) from the field and were only 11-18 (61 percent) from the free throw line.
Sikeston won't play again until traveling to Poplar Bluff on Friday at 6 p.m. Portageville will play in the Bootheel Conference Tournament this week at South Pemiscot High School.
Sikeston's J.V. team improved to 12-3 on the season with its ninth straight victory, defeating previously undefeated Portageville 59-43.
Sikeston led 15-13 after one quarter and 34-25 at the half. The Bulldogs extended the lead to 50-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
Sikeston was led by sophomore Dominic Fondon's 23 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Freshman Eli Jackson followed up with 12 points and nine rebounds. Junior Frazer Stone had 10 points with six rebounds.
Freshman Juqualin Wiggins had a good all-around game, scoring six points with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
Portageville (9-1) was led by Dareall Hicks with 14 points. Byron Wright followed up with six points.
The Sikeston freshmen team ended its season on Friday night by taking third place in the Jackson Tournament, defeating the host school 50-40.
Sikeston's freshmen team finishes 13-4 on the year.
Sikeston led throughout the game, taking a 12-3 lead after one quarter and never looked back.
Niquavious Dixon led Sikeston with 18 points, including 8-8 from the free throw line. Dwayne Harris added 12 points and Dario Lewis had seven points.
Jackson was led by Gohn's 10 points.
Portageville 64, Sikeston 63
PORTAGEVILLE (64) -- Trey Mosby 23, Kony Ealy 16, Jacob Estes 8, Marcus Greene 6, Tarrale Jones 4, Mikey Johnson 4, Leonard Boyd 3. FG 19, FT 11-17, F 16. (3-pointers: Estes 2, Mosby 2, Ealy 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (63) -- Michael Porter 36, Brandon Washington 7, Ray Rodgers 6, Julian Beard 6, Blake Taylor 4, Isaac Porter 4. FG 23, FT 11-18, F 16. (3-
pointers: Washington 1, I. Porter 1. Fouled out: none).
Sikeston 59, Portageville 43
PORTAGEVILLE (43) -- Dareall Hicks 14, Byron Wright 6, D.J. Birdwell 5, Bruce Mathis 4, Kony Ealy 4, Tarrale Jones 4, Adam Buchanan 2, T.J. Smith 2, Royden Booker 2. FG 18, FT 4-6, F 13. (3-pointers: Birdwell 1. Fouled out: Hicks).
SIKESTON (59) -- Dominic Fondon 23, Eli Jackson 12, Frazer Stone 10, Dwayne Harris 6, Juqualin Wiggins 6, Niquavious Dixon 2. FG 22, FT 9-20, F 10. (3-pointers: Stone 2. Fouled out: none).