(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
PARK HILLS -- The Sikeston Bulldogs used a big second half effort to pull out a close win against Farmington Wednesday night, knocking off the Knights 65-57 in state sectional competition.
From the opening tip, it seemed as if the Bulldogs were on pace for another lopsided victory, something that has been a common occurrence for Sikeston this year.
Sikeston's swarming defense forced 10 Farmington turnovers in the first period alone, and helped the Bulldogs jump out to an 18-11 lead after one quarter.
The second quarter was a complete role reversal for the two teams. While the Bulldogs struggled to get any kind of offensive rhythm going, the Knights played as if the Sikeston defense wasn't even there at times.
"We became passive I thought, we were standing around," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "But you can't take anything away from [Farmington] because they were great in the second quarter. They were passing, cutting, catching the ball, shooting, you have to give them a lot of credit."
Farmington started the second quarter on a 13-2 run and outscored the Bulldogs 26-10 in the period. They were led by John Schnurbusch, who had 11 of his team-high 15 points in the second quarter, including three 3-pointers.
"We got hot on our 3-pointers and any time we can spread the defense we're pretty tough," said Farmington coach Brett Hale. "I think Sikeston got a little rattled there in the second quarter and we took advantage of it."
It looked as if the Bulldogs would head into the locker room facing a double-digit deficit. However, with less than a minute to play in the half, Juqualin Wiggins was fouled on a layup and converted a conventional 3-point play to cut the deficit to nine.
Farmington had one more chance to extend their lead, but a circus shot by Schnurbusch rimmed out and the Knights took a 37-28 lead into halftime.
Whatever the Bulldogs were lacking in the second quarter they made up for it and then some in the third. Will Holifield's 3-pointer at the seven minute mark ended a Sikeston streak of 31-straight points scored in the paint.
Sikeston outscored Farmington 13-4 over the first six minutes of the quarter and finally tied the game at 41-41 after a steal and a Janeil Hatchett layup.
The Bulldogs netted 19 third quarter points while allowing only four points from Farmington.
"We got a little rattled and started turning it over and gave Sikeston some confidence," Hale said. "When they get going they can really put some pressure on you and they start rebounding the ball, and it just kind of flows. That's what they've done to teams all year. A good team is going to come back at you and they did that in the third quarter and we knew they would. We just didn't stop their run there when we needed to."
Sikeston capitalized on 10 more Farmington turnovers in the third quarter.
"I thought we picked our intensity and tempo up in the third quarter and forced some turnovers and we were fortunate to get some points off those turnovers," Holifield said.
The final quarter was the only one in the game that the teams seemed to be evenly matched. Both teams put up a strong offensive quarter, but both teams also missed several clutch free throws.
Sikeston was 5-of-14 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, while Farmington went 8-of-13 from the line.
Farmington trailed by as many as nine points early in the fourth, yet with 1:32 left, Schnurbusch hit two free throws to pull the Knights to within five.
Sikeston would not let the Knights any closer. Sikeston got to the free throw line eight times in the last 1:20 and knocked down just enough shots to pull out the win.
"I was proud of our team in the second half," Holifield said. "I thought we really responded and came out and played well in the third and fourth quarter."
Wiggins led the Bulldogs with 22 points and 11 rebounds. Janeil Hatchett added 13 points and six steals in the win.
Hale, whose Knights finish the season with a 16-13 record, praised his teams effort.
"I was really proud of us. We were the decided underdog coming in," said Hale. "They beat us by 29 the first time, and to play them that close, we were really proud of our effort. We just came up a little short, we had a bad third quarter, but we were right there. To be right there with one of the best teams in the state, if not the best, we're so proud of what we accomplished tonight."
The Bulldog victory sets up a rematch that many fans have been hoping for all season. Sikeston will face the St. Francis Borgia Knights this Saturday at the Farmington Civic Center at 7:45 p.m. The Bulldogs lost a tight contest with the Knights 51-41 in last year's quarterfinal matchup.
Borgia comes in with a 28-0 record and are ranked No. 1 in Class 4, while the No. 3 Bulldogs are 21-3.
SIKESTON (65) -- Juqualin Wiggins 22, Eli Jackson 4, Darryl Howard 8, Janeil Hatchett 11, Terry Jamison 5, Will Holifield 5, Corey Porter 10. FG 23 FT 16-36 F 24. (3-pointers: Howard 1, Jamison 1, Holifield 1. Fouled out: Porter.)
FARMINGTON (57) -- Landon Barks 12, Pete Grindel 2, John Schnurbusch 15, Tim Anderson 10, Jonathon Bird 7, Doug Warren 4, Roper Garrett 7. FG 18 FT 17-24 F 25. (3-pointers: Barks 1, Schnurbusch 3. Fouled out: none.)