(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs home opener went exactly as planned Friday night.
Sikeston jumped out to an early lead, forced numerous turnovers and never trailed in defeating the visiting Dexter Bearcats 74-42.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 7-2 start and led 34-21 at the half, however, Sikeston never put the game away until the fourth quarter.
"We've got a lot of work to do and we know that," said Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield. "We lost a week of our season and we aren't where we need to be by any means but you really have to give Dexter credit. They came in, played hard, did a lot of good things and competed hard."
Dexter battled the Bulldogs tough in the first half, trailing only 20-18 in the second quarter before Sikeston went on a 13-3 run to finish the half.
"We played well at times," said Dexter coach Rob Nichols. "We let them make several runs on us that kind of stretched the score out several times. To our kids' credit, we dug back in the game and were down six points in the middle of the third quarter."
Dexter trailed only 36-30 midway through the third quarter when Sikeston took over the game with a 15-6 run to end the third quarter and never looked back.
Most of the damage was done by Sikeston senior Michael Porter who finished with 31 points and 12 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Porter took advantage of Dexter's sagging zone defense.
"We packed it in on them and maybe we should have pressured the ball to discourage some of those passes to Porter because they got it in to him a little more than we wanted," Nichols said. "You kind of have to pick your poison. Are you going to pressure them and let them penetrate on you or are you going to sag around Porter? We chose the latter and he hurt us anyway. He's a great player."
"He really played well," Holifield said of Porter. "He's just a good player. He's in the right place at the right time. He does a good job on our secondary break, getting to where he is supposed to be."
While the Dexter defense sagged around Porter, it left many opportunities for the Bulldogs to shoot the ball outside. The Bulldogs hit 6 of 16 3-pointers on the night with Porter hitting two and Will Holifield three.
"We've got some kids that can shoot it pretty decent and I think we'll be OK, it will just take some time to get our legs under us, get our confidence and do some things like that," Holifield said.
"Defensively our game plan was to pack it in around Porter and see if they could shoot themselves out of the game a little bit," Nichols said. "They are a well coached team and Coach Holifield has them disciplined and they know what shots they need to take."
The Bearcats struggled early in the game with the Sikeston press, coughing the ball up 16 times in the first half and 22 times in the game.
"The 2-2-1 press and the zone Sikeston is playing is good," Nichols said. "They are long, athletic and things you think are open get shut down pretty quickly."
Behind Porter's 31, Sikeston had no other double figure scorers but Holifield and Cal Lane each finished with nine points. Point guard Juqualin Wiggins also had a good game, finishing with four points and five rebounds to go along with his 10 assists.
Dexter was led by sophomore Alan Flannigan's 15 points and five rebounds.
"Alan has a chance to be a really good player if he keeps the same attitude and still hungry and wants to get better every day," Nichols said. "I think he has a bright future."
Junior Jon Bowman added 10 points for the Bearcats.
Sikeston (2-1) and Dexter (0-2) will both take part in the SEMO Conference Tournament that begins Monday. Sikeston, the top seed, will take on Cape Central at 5:30 p.m. Monday while Dexter, seeded seventh, will take on second seeded NMCC at 8:30 p.m.
"It's going to be difficult," Holifield said of the SEMO Tournament. "There are a lot of good teams in it. We are going to have to play well to win, regardless of who we are playing."
The Sikeston Bulldogs rolled in the junior varsity game 78-34 over Dexter. The game was tied 8-8 early in the first quarter before the Bulldogs finished the quarter on a 14-6 run and never looked back.
Corey Porter finished with 14 points for the Bulldogs and Janiel Hatchett ended with 13 points and 11 assists. Dexter was led by Jake Cox who finished with 13 points.