(Photos by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Even though the Sikeston Bulldogs pulled off a 19-point win over their rival Notre Dame Bulldogs on Friday night, round two of the series was much closer than the final score appeared.
"We never could pull away," Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said. "We just didn't play well but, to their credit I thought they played very well. They had a great game plan I thought and we didn't adjust to it very well early."
"We had a game plan and we stuck to it," Notre Dame head coach Kevin Roberts said. "We were in the game for quite a bit. The final score was [a 19 point difference] but I believe it was a two, three or four possession game."
In Sikeston's break away fourth quarter, the red Bulldogs opened the last period with a 21-5 run that put the game away.
For the first three quarters of the game Sikeston (6-1) held no more than a nine point lead which was acquired two separate times in the third quarter.
"We were not aggressive tonight," Holifield said. "Offensively and defensively we were just out of position all night. We were trying to put too much pressure on the ball and getting beat off the dribble. We can't play like that. We've got to be more under control defensively."
Notre Dame (3-4) tied the ball game at 30 points a piece with less than two-and-a-half minutes left in the first half. But, a 7-2 run that was capped off by a 3-pointer from Eli Jackson with less five seconds left gave Sikeston a five point lead heading into the break.
"I thought they (Notre Dame) played very well in the first half and I didn't think we (Sikeston) played real well, especially defensively," Holifield said. "That was just not very good. We've got to get better in that area. There's a lot of areas that we have to get better in."
Sikeston's first half lead was held together by the three-time all-state forward Michael Porter.
"We focused our intensity mostly on Michael (Porter)," Roberts said. "He had 26 on us last time so we wanted somebody else to come out there and beat us. He still scored his points but the rest of their team really rallied around him again."
Porter scored 15 of his game leading 23 points in the first half but was helped out more in the second half by three other Sikeston Bulldogs who scored double digits.
Jackson had 15 points, Darryl Howard finished with 10 and Will Holifield chipped in with 10 points as well which included two big 3-pointers in the third quarter.
Juqualin Wiggins chipped in with nine points but proved to be even more valuable with his passing skills. He tallied nine assists with six of those earned in the second half.
"We have good players, they just have to be more confident to step up and do the job and I think as the season goes on they will," Holifield said. "We've got to get in a situation to where we're more productive and more aggressive."
Notre Dame was led by Jacob Tolbert's 19 points followed by Alex Bader's 18 points. Half of Bader's points came from behind the arc where he connected for three 3-pointers. Joseph Tolbert hit two 3-pointers as well which was half of his 12 points on the night.
Sikeston also held a slight rebounding advantage with an 18-15 lead.
This will be the last time that the Bulldogs will meet this year in the regular season with only a potential match-up in district play looming in each coaches mind.
"Hopefully, we're going to get better and I know they (Sikeston) are going to get better," Roberts said about a potential district match-up. "It's tough to play a team three times on either side -- to beat a good team three times and to try to defeat a team three times. It will be interesting match-up if we get there."
"They're (Notre Dame) going to be an outstanding team by the end of the year," Holifield said. "They're just going to get better and better. When Koeppel gets back it's really going to help them because he's a really good player. They're going to be very difficult to beat. They always are."
"They come out and battle and compete and do a lot of good things against us," Holifield added. "We've been looking at them now for seven or eight years in district play and I can assure you they'll be a hand full."
The Sikeston junior varsity fared well too in their game against the Notre Dame Bulldogs in a 68-49 win.
Corey Porter led Sikeston with 11 points and eight rebounds while Janiel Hatchett and Terry Jamison added 10, respectively.
Notre Dame's Alex Beussink led all scorers with 12 points. Josh Norman and Matt Patton chipped in with 10 points a piece as well.