(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SCOTT CITY -- With Scott City clinging to a slim two-point lead with five minutes to play, the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs looked poised to get their biggest win of the season. The Lady Rams had other plans however, and used rebounding and key free throws to put away the upset-minded Lady Bulldogs 64-56 Thursday night.
"(Sikeston) gave us more than we wanted," said Scott City coach Kerry Thompson. "They are an improved ball club and I thought at times they wanted it more than we did. We talk February basketball all the time and you have to battle to win those games. This game will be good for us at the end of the year."
Scott City, who won their sixth-straight and improved to 14-3, never could shake the Lady Bulldogs and clung to a 49-47 lead with 5:10 remaining. The Lady Rams didn't panic though as they outscored Sikeston 13-6 over the next four minutes, capped off by a Stephanie Essner 3-pointer that gave Scott City a comfortable 62-53 advantage with 40 seconds remaining.
Sikeston fell to 4-11 but even in the loss, Sikeston coach Homer Jackson was encouraged.
"I thought we played well," Jackson said. "Everybody is playing up to their capabilities. We didn't have as many turnovers in key situations and we didn't give up so many easy shots. Give Scott City credit, they can shoot the basketball. We're trying to get it to the next level and our girls are responding well."
Sikeston came out red hot from the field and built an 18-15 lead after one quarter, using defensive pressure to force several Scott City turnovers. But the Lady Rams answered with an 11-0 run to start the second quarter and led 33-26 at halftime. Much of the damage from Scott City came from Katie Hogan who scored 14 first half points.
It was a different story for Hogan in the second half, as Sikeston turned their attention to the sophomore and held her scoreless the remainder of the game.
"We wanted to make her work twice as hard and not make it easy for her," Jackson said of Sikeston's defense on Hogan in the second half. "We wanted to get her out of her rhythm just a little bit and push her out a step beyond her confidence level and I think we did a good job of that."
Shutting down Hogan meant other girls had to step up for the Lady Rams, which happened thanks to Essner and Ashley Brant. Essner finished the game with 15 points, 10 of those coming in the second half. She also was responsible for setting up many of her teammates, finishing with nine assists.
"Stephanie is doing really good at the point guard position," Thompson said. "Over the last month she's really doing some good things and taking it upon herself to get more people involved in our offense. She took over and hit some shots and made some free throws."
While Essner was handling the basketball for Scott City, Brant was controlling the paint, finishing with a team-high 16 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. She also ended 6-of-8 from the free throw line.
"Ashley has done a good job all year," Thompson said. "She's kind of our unsung hero so to speak. She doesn't always get as many looks as you might think, but she just keeps battling and keeps working and has really hit some big free throws for us the last few weeks.
"Other girls stepped up and we've got to have that. When it gets district time, I don't think one or two players are going to win ballgames for you. But we still got to get a look with Katie."
Even though Hogan couldn't get untracked offensively, she was still a force defensively, grabbing 15 rebounds in the game and blocking four shots. However, her presence didn't have a major impact on Sikeston's Asia Liggins as the Lady Bulldogs leading scorer finished with a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds.
"This is the first time Asia has had to play somebody that is bigger than her," Jackson said. "We just told her to 'slow your game down just a little bit, turn and watch what (Hogan) is giving you and then take advantage of that.' That's the next phase of her learning.
"The rest of our team, their next phase is if (Asia's) not making her shots, that means lets look for the rebound and try to get it on the second shot. We got some of that tonight and that is a good learning lesson for them."
Sikeston finished the game with 16 offensive rebounds, several coming from senior Tyanne Townsend who finished the game with 12 points and seven rebounds.
"The way (Sikeston) runs their offense, they stack it on the weak side and they shoot it and they have that weak-side rebounding and we had one trying to block out two," Thompson said. "We tried to make adjustments to it but we just didn't do a good job making those adjustments."
Sikeston also got nine points from Keyonna Blissett and Darquesha Howard added seven while turning in a stellar defensive performance.
"We challenged (Darquesha) and she said she was going to play better and I think she met the challenge," Jackson said. "I'm really pleased with the way the girls are playing. It's a lot more fun for them, for me and the fans too to see a competitive game."
Sikeston will be back in action Monday when they host Jackson while Scott City will host Delta Monday in a rematch of the Scott-Miss Conference Tournament championship game.
Sikeston defeated Scott City in a two quarter junior varsity game 24-19.
SIKESTON (56) -- Tyanne Townsend 12, Keyonna Blissett 9, Darquesha Howard 7, Asia Liggins 21, Jerrica Taylor 2, Taneshia Pulley 5. FG 20, FT 14-23, F 13. (3-pointers: Howard 1, Liggins 1. Fouled out: none).
SCOTT CITY (64) -- Stacey Heisserer 4, Stephanie Essner 15, Melanie Lacey 8, Katie Hogan 14, Holli Shemonia 4, Macy Heisserer 3, Ashley Brant 16. FG 24, FT 10-12, F 17. (3-pointers: Essner 3, Hogan 2, M. Heisserer 1. Fouled out: none).