(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Sikeston senior Janeil Hatchett noticed a few differences in the Dexter Bearcats basketball team, opposed to last season's squad who the Bulldogs beat three times by an average of 32 points.
"They changed a lot of stuff from last year," he said. "They were able to pass the ball around and get through our press. They're an improved team."
Although Dexter trimmed their recent losing deficit in half Friday night, the Sikeston Bulldogs bested the Bearcats, 70-54, at the Sikeston Field House for the 10th straight time.
"Dexter is a much improved team," Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said. 'They're a big, strong, physical team. They impressed me. They were poised and did a good job of handling the basketball."
The Bulldogs, however, wasted no time gaining the early lead.
Tied at 6-6 after a basket from Dexter's Josh Sifford, Sikeston senior Will Holifield answered with a 3-pointer moments later. Sikeston (3-0) would never trail or be tied with Dexter again for the remaining three quarters as the Bulldogs took a 21-10 lead after the first quarter -- despite an emotional second quarter turnaround by the Bearcats.
Trailing by 11, Dexter (0-2) scored seven unanswered points that was capped off by a 3-point play by junior Jake Lee. With Lee and Dexter standout Alan Flannigan, who scored a game-high 21 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, controlling the glass and pouring in a combined 11 of the Bearcats 14 second quarter points, Dexter came within four points of the home squad on three separate occasions.
"I like these guys from a mental standpoint," Dexter head coach Rob Nichols said. "They pick each other up and they motivate each other. They show emotion when they make good plays and they can feed off of that."
However, the Bulldogs answered Dexter's run which included 3-pointers by Will Holifield and Vashawn Ruffin. Sikeston went into halftime with a 33-24 advantage.
"We wasn't playing as hard as we could. We wasn't doing the things that we needed to do," Hatchett said about the first half. "We weren't blocking out and rebounding. They were out-rebounding us in the first half so we just came out focused on beating them on the boards (in the second half). If we beat them on the boards we could get out on the break and get going."
A 7-1 run to start the third quarter, highlighted by a 3-point play by Hatchett, put the Bulldogs in the driver's seat for the rest of the second half. Outscoring the Bearcats 22-17, Sikeston received balanced scoring from eight different players in the third quarter alone while Hatchett, who scored a team-high 13 points, led with five. Corey Porter was Sikeston's second leading scorer with 12 points and four rebounds.
This was the Bulldogs' 38th consecutive victory at home and their third in-a-row this season. Both Sikeston and Dexter will participate in the SEMO Conference Tournament which starts Monday at 5 p.m. with the No. 1 seeded Bulldogs taking on the New Madrid County Central Eagles. The Bearcats, who are the No. 6 seed, will face the No. 3 seeded Notre Dame Bulldogs on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
"We've had a busy week and, as you can tell, we need some practice time," Holifield said. "We're going to jump in next week and start playing again. I think in time, we'll have a good club."
DEXTER (54) -- Alan Flannigan 21, Jake Lee 14, Josh Sifford 7, Jake Cox 5, Jordan Fitts 4, Tyler Miller 3. FG 16, FT 19-24, F 18. (3-pointers: Cox 1, Sifford 1, Flannigan 1. Fouled out: Flannigan).
SIKESTON (71) -- Janeil Hatchett 13, Corey Porter 13, Will Holifield 12, Darryl Howard 8, Keldon Warfield 6, Vashawn Ruffin 5, Eldridge Gibson 4, Terry Jamison 4, Kil'ron Coleman 3, Caleb McGee 2. FG 28, FT 9-19, F 18. (3-pointers: Holifield 2, Coleman 1, Howard 1, Ruffin 1. Fouled out: none).