(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- By now, most of Sikeston's opponents know what they have to do to defeat the Bulldogs -- don't get into a track meet with them.
But it's implementing that game plan and executing it that has proven to be a monumentally difficult task as Sikeston vanquished its 43rd consecutive opponent at the Field House, defeating district rival Notre Dame 64-57 on Friday night.
The Bulldogs also ran their record to 9-0 heading into Christmas break, the first time in recent memory that the team has been undefeated this deep into the season.
"It's a huge win," Sikeston senior Corey Porter said. "I told these guys before we came into the locker room, we were at this point last year, undefeated and picked to win this game, just like this year. This is a huge win for our team."
Even with several key players participating in another deep playoff run by the Sikeston football team last month, it hasn't appeared to slow the Bulldogs down.
"I told the team we really needed to get this one and that it would be nice going into Christmas, with the football legs we have, undefeated," Porter said.
Just like they have done all season, the Bulldogs' relentless full-court pressure forced numerous turnovers and fast-break opportunities.
Sikeston forced 28 Notre Dame turnovers, 20 of which came on steals which often led to easy layups.
The Bulldogs were able to build a 46-27 lead late in the third quarter, but a 7-0 run by Notre Dame sliced the advantage to 46-34 by the end of the third quarter.
Sikeston again managed to build the lead back up to 54-36 in the fourth, but once again the Bulldogs were not able to put the finishing touches on Notre Dame.
"We just didn't finish the game off well," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "We made some mistakes that we just can't make. Give Notre Dame credit, they didn't go away. But never underestimate a good win against a quality team."
After trailing 58-41 with 3:13 left in the game, Notre Dame closed out the contest on a 16-6 run, hitting three 3-pointers in the final minutes and knocking down a jumper at the buzzer, giving coach Kevin Roberts reason to be optimistic.
"If we can put together four quarters like we did the fourth quarter, we can be tough to beat," Roberts said. "Coming into Sikeston, it's tough to play here -- they have a 40-something game winning streak here. You never know. If we get on a neutral floor at Dexter in the district, the outcome could be different."
Sikeston played solid defense on Notre Dame's 6-foot-7 all-state center Jacob Tolbert, limiting him to just nine points through most of three quarters, but the senior hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with seconds remaining in the period and tallied nine more points in the fourth quarter to finish with 21 in the contest.
But for most of the night, Tolbert was held in check by Porter, who at 6-foot-2 was giving up several inches inside, but made up for in size (290 pounds) and strength.
"Corey's a big man in there -- he's not a boy, he's a man," Roberts said. "Him leaning on you the entire night would wear anybody out. But Jacob stepped out and hit some 3's. We kind of mixed some things up to get him more involved. Everybody in the SEMO area knows we go how he goes."
Porter had perhaps his best all-around game of the season, finishing with 13 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and three assists.
"He played great and had great position in there," Holifield said of Porter. "We were getting him the basketball and I was really proud of his effort. I thought he played well."
Janeil Hatchett led the team with 14 points and four steals. Darryl Howard followed up with 13 points.
However, even with the Bulldogs forcing numerous turnovers and converting them into points, the team's perimeter shooting was non-existent as they were 1-of-14 from 3-point range in the game.
"We missed point blank shots and wide open looks," Holifield said. "But you have to give Notre Dame credit, they had a lot to do with that."
The pace of the game was slow in the first half as Sikeston led 12-10 after the first quarter and 27-24 at halftime.
It was the tempo that Roberts wanted.
"If you can get them to play a halfcourt game, they don't do as well," Roberts said. "If we get to running up and down the floor with them, they're going to run us out of the gym. We wanted to dictate the pace, get quality shots and get Jacob some touches."
Sikeston, as they did last Friday in the championship game of the SEMO Conference Tournament against Cape Central, exploded out of the gates after halftime, forcing Roberts to burn three timeouts in the third quarter alone to try to keep the game from getting completely out of hand.
"They wear teams down -- we had a lot of turnovers," Roberts said. "We came out in the second half and started playing their game and you just can't do that."
With a 19-3 run to start the third quarter, Sikeston had wrestled control of the game and the tempo.
"We had spurts there where I thought we played great," Holifield said. "Up until the last two minutes I thought we guarded pretty well and did some good things. We just got a little careless in that situation. We'll learn from this."
Notre Dame, which had just 34 points in the first three quarters, finished with 23 points in the final period.
"We never gave up -- they went on a 19-3 run to start the second half and a lot of teams would have ended up down 30 and it would've been a running clock," Roberts said. But we fought back and cut it to nine. But 10 guys that we played, nine of them have never played against Sikeston. Jacob was the only one."
Notre Dame (2-3) also got 16 points from Nathan Meystedt.
Sikeston will be off until Dec. 27 when they play Warrenton in the first round of the St. Dominic Christmas Tournament at 3 p.m.
Sikeston shook off a slow start and went on a 20-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters to roll over Notre Dame 61-40 in the junior varsity game.
Sikeston led 30-9 at the half and 46-20 after three quarters. The Bulldogs enforced the mercy clock in the fourth quarter as reserves finished out the game.
The Bulldogs (9-0) were led by Markeith Bratcher's 24 points and 12 rebounds. J.T. Jones followed up with 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and three steals.
NOTRE DAME (57) -- Jacob Tolbert 21, Nathan Meystedt 16, Derek Landewee 8, Cody Heisserer 6, Joseph Siebert 3, Alex Beussink 3. FG 17, FT 5-11, F 15. (3-pointers: Tolbert 2, Landewee 2, Siebert 1, Beussink 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (64) -- Janeil Hatchett 14, Darryl Howard 13, Corey Porter 13, Will Holifield 9, Eldridge Gibson 6, Terry Jamison 4, Vashawn Ruffin 3, Kil'Ron Coleman 2. FG 24, FT 13-21, F 18. (3-pointers: Ruffin 1. Fouled out: none).
NOTRE DAME (40) -- ALex Landewee 10, Brent Hulshof 8, Jack Stallings 6, Kevin Brost 5, Logan Buchheit 4, Demonte' Farmer 3, Dalton Welch 2, Nick Essner 2. FG 11, FT 15-25, F 9. (3-pointers: Landewee 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (61) -- Markeith Bratcher 24, J.T. Jones 12, Vashawn Ruffin 8, Cord Sheehy 7, Caleen Crawford 4, Kyland Gross 3, Reese Porter 1, Blake Flannigan 1, Rayshundre Jackson 1. FG 18, FT 4-10, F 16. (3-pointers: Bratcher 4, Ruffin 2, Sheehy 1. Fouled out: none).