(David Jenkins, Staff)
"I think we came out with good intensity," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "I thought we had good pressure on the ball and that created some opportunities for us. But, you have to give Kennett credit. I thought they played hard, they got on the boards and really played well."
The game was built with a lot of hype as Sikeston came in ranked fourth in Class 4 while Kennett was ranked sixth in Class 3, and the game began as an up-and-down affair as both teams were trying to push the ball up the floor on offense while using a full-court press on defense.
Knotted at 15-15 with less than two minutes remaining in the first, Sikeston began to take control as they went on a 9-2 run to finish out the quarter.
Sikeston then built a 10-point lead early in the second but Kennett cut the advantage to 33-29 midway through the period. However the Bulldogs dug deep and finished the half on a 12-4 run, leading 45-33 at the break.
A big reason for Kennett hanging with Sikeston in the first half was the play of Jimmy Gooden. The 6-0 senior finished the half with 19 points and eight rebounds and gave the Bulldogs fits for much of the first half.
"Jimmy was on a bit of a mission tonight," said Kennett coach Jim Vaughan. "That is the absolute toughest I've ever seen him compete. I was so proud of the way he came out tonight. And it's a good thing he did because that 19 was big for us tonight."
Unfortunately for Kennett, Gooden wasn't able to duplicate his first half performance as he drew more attention from the Bulldog defense. Gooden was limited to just four points and one rebound in the second half.
"We just put a focus on finding him and putting a body on him," Holifield said. "He did hurt us (in the first half) and we didn't cover that very well. We were out of position somewhat and I thought at halftime we adjusted to that."
With Gooden silenced in the second half, Sikeston's pressure began to take it's toll on Kennett and the Indians began to turn the ball over leading to easy baskets for the Bulldogs. A Sikeston steal and layup from Janeil Hatchett in the final seconds put the Bulldogs up 61-41 after three quarters.
"We try to play nine kids and keep pressure on the ball and at some point in time I think that affects the other team. I'm just glad we were able to do that tonight," Holifield said.
For the game, Sikeston forced 21 turnovers, with 10 of those coming in the third quarter.
"We didn't just turn it over against the press, other than just allowing the back tip which we knew they were going to do," Vaughan said. "But what we didn't do was attack it and I'm disappointed in that.
"And credit Sikeston for that too. Their positioning is so good. I told our kids going in, we're a fast team and they are as fast as we are. It shell-shocked our kids a little bit tonight."
Sikeston also began to establish their dominance on the boards in the second half, earning several second and third shot opportunities.
"The first quarter we didn't (rebound)," Holifield said. "We put an emphasis on that at halftime and I thought our kids stepped up and got on the boards better."
After allowing 18 rebounds to Kennett in the first half, Sikeston allowed only eight rebounds in the second half. For the game, the Bulldogs out-rebounded Kennett 41-26.
"(Rebounding) was the key this week," Vaughan said. "They out-length us, they out-strengthen us and they are as fast as we are. They've got a lot more girth and equal or more athleticism and we knew that was a huge, huge factor tonight. We gave up too much easy put back stuff at the basket."
Sikeston put any thoughts of a Kennett comeback to rest to start the fourth when Terry Jamison and Will Holifield hit back-to-back 3's to give Sikeston a 67-41 advantage, cruising to the 84-59 win.
Eli Jackson led Sikeston (14-1) with 17 points and 11 rebounds while Juqualin Wiggins finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds of his own. Holifield and Darryl Howard both finished with 13 points as Howard also collected five steals. Jamison finished with 12 points.
"Everyday we just try to come out and play hard," Holifield said. "I think (Kennett) is an impressive team and they've done a great job there and I think they're going to win a lot of games. But I'm proud we were able to come in, build a lead and grow on it."
Kennett (12-4) was led by Gooden's 23 points while Randrick Caruthers chipped in 11 points. The Indians 25-point loss is similar to their district opponents losses to Bulldogs earlier in the season in Charleston (29) and New Madrid County Central (28).
"We said coming in to this that this game would be a good measure of what kind of team we're going to be come district tournament time," Vaughan said. "What we can take away from it is that we are on the same playing field as the Charleston and New Madrid."
Notes: Sikeston has added a game to their schedule and will be hosting Caruthersville on Feb. 10. The Bulldogs will be back in action again on Tuesday when they travel to Jackson.
KENNETT (59) -- Cameron Wallace 4, Jack Walls 5, Fred Garmon 8, Jay Shavers 6, Randrick Caruthers 11, Dwight Usry 2, Jimmy Gooden 23. FG 22, FT 10-16, F 16. (3-pointers: Wallace 1, Garmon 1, Shavers 1, Caruthers 1, Gooden 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (84) -- Juqualin Wiggins 12, Eli Jackson 17, Niquavious Dixon 2, Darryl Howard 13, Janeil Hatchett 7, Terry Jamison 12, Will Holifield 13, Corey Porter 8. FG 32, FT 15-26, F 15. (3-pointers: Holifield 4, Jamison 1. Fouled out: none).
Sikeston jumped out to a 29-4 lead over Kennett in the first quarter and cruised to a 73-25 win, improving to 15-0 on the season.
Eldridge Gibson led Sikeston with 19 points and pulled down seven rebounds, seven assists, four steals and four blocks. Kil'ron Coleman finished with 17 points while Vashawn Ruffin scored 10.
KENNETT (25) -- Cameron Harper 5, Aaron Caraway 2, Jajuan Wallace 8, Travon Weeden 6, Divante Taylor 4. FG 10, FT 4-6, F 6. (3-pointers: Harper 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (73) -- Tyler Anderson 5, Markeith Bratcher 2, Vashawn Ruffin 10, Caleb McGee 4, Quentin Washington 2, Terry Jamison 8, Eldridge Gibson 19, Keldon Warfield 4, Kil'ron Coleman 17. FG 31, FT 8-10, F 10. (3-pointers: Coleman 2. Fouled out: none).