(David Jenkins, Staff)
Juqualin Wiggins, Eli Jackson and Martez Evans played their final game on the Field House floor Friday night, holding off a scrappy Bernie team 71-52 to win their 33rd straight game at home.
"There is no better feeling than coming into a packed Field House, with the fans and community cheering for us," Wiggins said. "It gives us a big boost as soon as you run out."
The last time Sikeston lost at home was a 74-69 overtime defeat to Jackson in the SEMO Conference Tournament on Dec. 6, 2007.
"Our kids really step up and play well here," said Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield. "Our fan support is awesome and there just isn't a better place to play in the state of Missouri. It is such a great atmosphere every night and I just can't say enough about our fans and our town and the support we get."
Sikeston needed every bit of that support Friday night as Bernie, ranked No. 8 in Class 2, hung around the entire game until the Bulldogs put them away in the final minutes.
It looked early like Sikeston would win the game easily as the Bulldogs jumped out to a 12-0 lead to start the game. However after a timeout, the Mules found their range.
A Jordan McGowan 3-pointer with five minutes remaining in the first broke the Bernie scoring drought and when the quarter ended Sikeston held just a 16-11 lead.
"We started off real slow," said Bernie coach Brad Botsch. "We were down 12-0 and called timeout and got a couple shots to fall after that and played much better from then on."
Bernie closed the gap to three points three times in the second quarter, including 32-29 with time winding down in the first half. Unfortunately for Bernie, Sikeston's Terry Jamison hit a 3-pointer before the half and the Bulldogs took a 35-29 lead into halftime.
Will Holifield helped Sikeston add to the lead in the third quarter as his second 3-pointer of the quarter gave the Bulldogs a 43-33 lead with 5:35 left. Holifield was seeing his first action since being knocked out of the Scott County Central game last Wednesday.
Will Holifield said it felt good to be back on the floor. "It was a struggle sitting," Holifield said. "I was open and knocked them down. That's my job."
Gregg Holifield said having Will on the floor was a big boost to the Bulldogs.
"(Will) stepped up and really played well I thought," the coach said. "It's nice to have someone on the floor that can shoot the basketball like he can and it definitely was a help."
Bernie still wouldn't go away as the Mules cut the lead back to six points after four-straight points from Jake Welch, but a Corey Porter shot at the third quarter buzzer put Sikeston ahead 50-41.
"I knew they wouldn't go away," Gregg Holifield said. "I've watched them enough and had enough information on them to know they wouldn't go away. Their coach does a great job and those kids played their hearts out. They played as hard as anybody we've played all year."
Sikeston began to pull away in the fourth quarter as Bernie was forced to play without 6-5 senior Jake Smith who was on the bench with foul problems. The Bulldogs took advantage as leading 54-46, Sikeston went on an 8-0 run to go up 16 points.
"I thought we played better and were a little more patient," Gregg Holifield said of the Bulldogs' second half. "We started standing a little bit in the first half and I thought they had a great game plan and did what they had to do to take us out of what we wanted to do. In the second half we were penetrating better and moving the basketball and getting the ball into the high post area which helped us."
Sikeston continued to add to their lead as they outscored the Mules 21-11 in the final quarter, getting several easy layups off turnovers late in the game.
"I think it was a combination of things,"Botsch said of Bernie's fourth quarter. "Obviously their relentless pressure is going to get to you in a game and with our big man going out of the game, it hurt us not having much of an inside threat. We had to rely more on our perimeter shooting and some of those shots didn't fall in that fourth quarter like they did earlier."
Sikeston (18-3) was led in scoring by Darryl Howard's 18 points while Will Holifield added 14. Wiggins added 13 points while pulling down 10 rebounds.
"Lately I've been trying to find my game and being patient," Wiggins said. "Tonight was a good night for me and had some good shots I wanted to take. We moved the ball as a team, penetrated and made our shots."
Bernie was led by McGowan's 16 points. The 6-2 junior also pulled down 10 rebounds. Seniors Jake Owens and Jake Welch chipped in 12 and 10 points respectively. Welch also grabbed eight rebounds.
With the loss, Bernie fell to 20-4 but Botsch feels the game will only help the Mules.
"Just playing an opponent of this caliber on their home floor with the crowd and the atmosphere, is no doubt going to give your kids some confidence, especially when they play the way that we did tonight," Botsch said. "I know the score ended up 19 but I thought we really battled them right there until the end."
Sikeston will begin district play next week as they earned the second seed in the Class 4, District 1 Tournament that will be held at the new Bearcat Events Center in Dexter. The Bulldogs will take on the winner of the Dexter/Fredericktown on Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.
"There's some awfully good teams in (the district)," Gregg Holifield said. "Dexter is really playing well right now and we know that Dexter or Fredericktown will really play us well."
BERNIE (52) -- Cameron Shipman 1, Jake Welch 10, Jake Owens 12, Sammy Walker 1, Jake Smith 9, Jordan McGowan 16, Jeremy Walker 1. FG 16, FT 15-24, F 13. (3-pointers: McGowan 4, Owens 1. Fouled out: McGowan).
SIKESTON (71) -- Juqualin Wiggins 13, Eli Jackson 6, Darryl Howard 18, Janeil Hatchett 5, Terry Jamison 8, Will Holifield 14, Corey Porter 7. FG 27, FT 9-21, F 20. (3-pointers: Holifield 4, Jamison 2, Howard 2. Fouled out: none).
The Sikeston junior varsity team became the first JV team in school history to finish undefeated after a 65-25 win over Bernie.
Sikeston (20-0) led 14-8 after one quarter but broke the game open in the second and led 39-15 at halftime.
Eldridge Gibson finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, seven offensive, to lead the Bulldogs. Vashawn Ruffin scored 11 while Caleb McGee finished with 10.
The team was honored after the game and received a large ovation from the Sikeston crowd. The Bulldog junior varsity team is coached by Brian James.
BERNIE (25) -- Landon Woods 3, Sam Turner 2, Will Barnett 6, Seth Walters 2, David Baker 10, Jacob Clayton 2. FG 10, FT 2-6, F 7. (3-pointers: Barnett 2. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (65) -- Tyler Anderson 1, Markeith Bratcher 8, Vashawn Ruffin 11, Caleb McGee 10, Quentin Washington 4, Terry Jamison 2, Eldridge Gibson 14, Keldon Warfield 6, Kil'ron Coleman 9. FG 27, FT 7-11, F 10. (3-pointers: McGee 2, Ruffin 1, Coleman 1. Fouled out: none).