(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
FARMINGTON -- The same hard-nosed, physical play of the Sikeston Bulldogs which led them to another 20-win season eventually helped end their year.
The St. Francis Borgia Knights knocked off the Bulldogs on Saturday in a 64-51 loss at the Farmington Civic Center in Farmington.
First quarter foul trouble was the beginning of the end for Sikeston. After seven, first quarter fouls, including a technical foul from the Bulldogs bench, Sikeston's physicality on the defensive side became handcuffed.
"I think it slowed us down a little bit just because we're a physical team," Sikeston senior Eli Jackson said. "We like to get on people. Just seeing how the refs were calling it we just had to play back and we didn't get to play the game we wanted to play."
Borgia, the No. 1 ranked team in Class 4, forged ahead after being down 6-5 early in the first. Sikeston was outscored 19-7 throughout the remainder of the quarter.
"Early fouls killed us," Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said. "We just didn't do a good job early and allowed them to get to the free throw line. To their credit, they were well prepared for what we did. We knew we had to try to turn it in to a track meet and get up and down as fast as we could, because they're so good."
Although early foul trouble was key in slowing the Bulldogs down, it may not have mattered much the way the Knights were playing.
"We got a couple of quick fouls and couldn't be as aggressive as we wanted to be," Sikeston senior Juqualin Wiggins said. "With them being so fundamentally sound you have to play smart and keep your head on a swivel."
On top of converting 16 of their first 22 shots in the first half, the Borgia defense was just as potent. The match-up zone caused fits for the Bulldogs as they were rendered helpless when it came to scoring. The duo of Missouri State recruit Nathan Scheer and junior Ben Ruether below the basket was a force.
"They came out and did a good job executing offensively, but their defense is great too, and that's why they're as good as they are," Holifield said. "They play on both ends of the floor. They punched us in the mouth right off the bat."
Ruether paced the Knights with 13 points, including 11 in the first quarter, in the first half while Scheer chipped in 10. The guard play of senior Tyler Ressel made a huge impact as well. After breaking Sikeston's press, Ressel dribbled through the Bulldog's zone as well only to dish it off to an awaiting, wide open player for Borgia under the basket.
"That's what I like to do," Ressel said. "I try to get those guys started before I get my shots. It's a team effort."
"We had problems with them penetrating," said Wiggins. "Once their guards began to penetrate he would just dump it off. We tried to adjust but, the only thing that matters is that we kept fighting."
Borgia held a 42-29 lead at halftime.
"As they tried to pick up the pressure, Tyler Ressel did a great job of handling the ball and getting it to the open man for some easy shots," Borgia head coach Dave Neier said. "I think that deflates their pressure a little bit. When your trying to put pressure up (top) and all of a sudden shooting layups down (low), I think it really helps out just to attack them.
"I think the kids did a pretty good job of getting after them right from the beginning of the game."
A 13-4 run towards the end of the third quarter had the Bulldogs down by 23 points. Sikeston was down by as much as 25 points early in the fourth quarter as the Knights began to try and run time off of the clock as well as rotate players off of the bench. Sikeston's never-die attitude, trimmed it to the final margin of 13.
As a team, Borgia was 23-of-37 (62 percent) from the field and was 17-of-23 (74 percent) from inside of the arc. Uncharacteristically, the Knights struggled from 3-point range missing eight of their 14 attempts.
"We were expecting them to basically come out and do the same things as last year; come out and shoot a lot and knock down shots," Jackson said. "We expected to take away the three's, which we did in some aspects."
Sikeston was led by Jackson's 12 points while three 3-pointers from Will Holifield gave him nine points on the night. Jackson also pulled down 11 rebounds in the game.
Ruether had a game-high 21 points for the Knights as Scheer added 14 and Ressel chipped in 11.
"They're so good," Holifield said. "We came out and we tried different things, but they're so hard to stop. We just didn't do a very good job in the first half of stopping the basketball."
Borgia moves on to Columbia where they will face Soldan in the state semifinals. Sikeston ended their season with a 21-4 record.
Notes: Sikeston will be saying goodbye to three seniors; Juqualin Wiggins, Eli Jackson and Martez Evans.
"Our seniors have had a great three years," said Holfield. "Juqualin, Eli and Martez, they've had as good a three years as any seniors we've had here. They played on two district championship teams, two quarterfinal teams and won a lot of basketball games. They're such hard workers, and we're going to sorely miss them."
SIKESTON (51) -- Juqualin Wiggins 6, Eli Jackson 12, Darryl Howard 3, Caleb McGee 2, Janeil Hatchett 3, Martez Evans 3, Terry Jamison 3, Will Holifield 9, Eldridge Gibson 2, Corey Porter 2, Kil'Ron Coleman 6. FG 18 FT 9-15 F 20. (3-pointers: Evans 3, Holifield 3, Coleman 2. Fouled out: none.)
BORGIA (64) -- Tyler Ressel 11, Bryce Dolan 5, Evan Johnson 1, Samuel Tochtrop 6, Nathan Scheer 14, Drew Kimminau 2, Ben Ruether 21, Nathan Rogers 4. FG 23 FT 12-20 F 15. (3-pointers: Ressel 2, Dolan 1, Ruether 3. Fouled out: none.)