(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- They couldn't hit jump shots, they struggled with layups and the free throw line was not kind to them.
The Cape Central Tigers took advantage in a big way.
The Sikeston Bulldogs lost their second game in a row on Friday night as their shooting woes eventually led to a 57-50 Cape Central win.
"We struggled tonight whether it was a layup, a free throw or a jumper," Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said. "We've been a very consistent team other than not being a great free throw shooting team. We struggled offensively from all aspects."
The Bulldogs shot 20-of-54 from the field and was a dismal 2-of-24 from behind the arc. They also shot 33 percent (8-of-24) from the free throw line including a 3-of-11 performance in the second half.
The absence of junior Will Holifield was definitely noticed.
Holifield, Sikeston's most consistent shooter, was held out of Friday's game due to the injury he suffered against the Scott County Central Braves on Wednesday night. Not only was the threat of Holifield's 3-point presence missed, but the problems he creates for the opposing team's defense in spreading their zone just enough to open the inside for slashing guards and post-players were missed as well.
"When you have a shooter on the floor people have to recognize where they are, which is an advantage," said Holifield. "It does keep teams from sinking in on you but, tonight, you have to tip your hat to Cape Central. They played really well."
With or without the Bulldogs most consistent outside threat on the floor, the Tigers were going to pack it in the paint all the same. The most important thing for them was to keep it at their pace and under their control.
"I don't really think we were worried about that too much," Cape Central senior Kevin Casasola said about the absence of Holifield. "We just went out and tried to play our game and keep it under control. We just wanted to keep them under 50. If we're able to do that, most of the time we come out with a victory."
Sikeston's poor free throw shooting combined with the Tiger's inability to miss from the line heavily factored into the 7-point margin of victory.
Casasola, junior Andrew Williams and junior Zach Boerboom provided the Tigers with their only offense in the fourth quarter and a great deal of that was from free throws. They combined for 14-of-17 in the fourth quarter alone while icing the game at the same time.
Boerboom finished with a total of eight points which were all scored in the fourth quarter. Casasola led the Tigers with 14 points, seven of which were in the last quarter. Althought the Bulldogs would come within just two points of a tie, Williams hit 5-of-6 free throws in the last 34 seconds to put the game out of reach.
"That's kind of been a weakness for us all year," Cape Central head coach Drew Church said about their free throw shooting. 'Lately, we've really concentrated on that in practice and they've stepped up and hit them. They always say free throws don't win all the games but they win the close one's. For us to execute and hit free throws down the stretch like that was big for us."
The Tigers came out in a bit of a struggle themselves in the first quarter. They quickly fell to a 9-0 deficit that grew just slightly to as much as 11 points. But, a 6-2 run to end the half had them looking up at a 7-point Sikeston lead.
They continued that momentum in the second quarter behind the inside play of junior James Lane and the 3-point shooting of Williams. Williams tied the game at 17 with his first 3-pointer at the 3:55 mark. He eventually gave the Tigers a 3-point lead, 23-20, with his second of the quarter with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.
A late steal by Janeil Hatchett followed by a transition basket by Hatchett as well gave the Bulldogs a 26-24 lead at the half.
Lane finished the first half with nine points and, maybe more importantly, 10 rebounds while Williams added eight points in the half as well.
Just six points from the Bulldogs in the third quarter gave Cape Central the lead for good as they countered with 13. Casasola drained his only 3-pointer of the night around the 3:30 mark to break a 30-30 tie and give the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish again.
"This is the biggest win of the year for us," Casasola said.
Both Lane and Williams finished with 13 points apiece. Lane hauled in 15 rebounds while Williams added seven. Boerboom also helped out on the boards with eight.
"It's a big win for us," Church said. "Sikeston is a very good ball club. They're hard to play against and they're well coached. I was proud of the way our kids executed."
Hatchett led the Bulldogs with 17 points and four steals. Eli Jackson grabbed seven rebounds and chipped in 14 points.
With this loss, Sikeston has dropped to 16-3 on the season and is now 4-2 in the SEMO Conference.
SIKESTON (50) -- Juqualin Wiggins 6, Eli Jackson 14, Darryl Howard 4, Janeil Hatchett 17, Martez Evans 5, Terry Jamison 2, Corey Porter 2. FG 20 FT 8-24 F 29. (3-pointers: Hatchett 1, Evans 1. Fouled out: Wiggins, Hatchett.)
CAPE CENTRAL (57) -- Blake Ozbun 2, Andrew Williams 13, James Lane 13, Terrance Howard 7, Kevin Casasola 14, Zach Boerboom 8. FG 14 FT 26-38 F 17. (3-pointers: Williams 2, Casasola 1. Fouled out: none.)
In their first relatively close game the Sikeston Bulldogs junior varsity squad pulled out a 60-55 win.
The Bulldogs found themselves down by two points with under two minutes left to play. But a late rally and two free throws from Keldon Warfield put the game out of reach in the closing seconds.