PARIS, Tenn. -- With so many lopsided victories this season, Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield actually doesn't mind facing a little adversity for a change.
After a season of blowouts and lofty praise, Sikeston finally was staring down a team that withstood the Bulldogs' blows and made things interesting down to the wire.
The Bulldogs overcame a difficult situation on the road and managed to keep their undefeated streak intact as they held off Henry County 70-64 on Saturday afternoon.
Sikeston, currently ranked No. 1 in Class 4, improved to 14-0 on the season with another difficult road test scheduled for tonight at Farmington.
"We need these kind of games to learn from and build on," Holifield said. "This will help us in the long run and we saw things we need to improve on."
As they did last year in an 81-40 rout of Henry County, the Bulldogs raced out to a big lead early in the game, taking a 21-10 advantage after one.
But unlike last year, the Patriots stayed poised and managed to stay in striking distance at halftime, trailing only 38-25.
"We didn't play very well over there last year and got embarrassed on their home floor and I think when they jumped up on us early, we kind of felt like, 'oh here we go again,'" Henry County coach Mitch Wilkins said. "I could just kind of see it on their faces and that's why we used so many timeouts in the first half."
The Bulldogs led by as much as 43-27 early in the third quarter but Henry County began to slowly creep back into the game led by freshman standout Brandon Donaldson, who scored eight of his game-high 20 points.
The Patriots (9-10) closed the third quarter on a 5-0 run including a steal and layup just seconds before the buzzer by Shaquille Hayes to cut Sikeston's lead to 53-44.
"I thought our kids did a good job of keeping their composure," Wilkins said. "I told them starting the third quarter that our goal was to get it to single digits by the end of the third quarter. If we could just do that then we might have a chance to win. Then we got a steal and scored right at the end of the quarter and the buzzer went off. It took us a while, but we got it to single digits."
With all the momentum, Henry County eventually cut the lead to 59-57 behind the red-shot shooting by Blane Houston, who hit two of his four 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter. Sikeston appeared to be in trouble.
"I thought Sikeston started tightening up just a little bit because they haven't been in that close of a game for a while," Wilkins said.
In desperate need of a basket, Sikeston finally got one on a 15-foot baseline jumper by junior Caleb McGee with 3:40 left in the game.
Henry County would never get closer than two points the rest of the way as Sikeston hit just enough free throws to keep the Patriots at bay.
Henry County's LaQuan McFerren made two free throws with 16 seconds left to cut the lead to 68-64, but Sikeston broke the Patriot press and found Janeil Hatchett for a layup and the foul seconds later to ice the victory.
"I thought our kids responded well to some adversity," Holifield said. "Henry County really dictated the pace in the second half. We knew they wouldn't go away. Coach Wilkins is a great coach and does a tremendous job. You have to give them credit, they wouldn't go away and they really played well in the second half. I was proud of our team for hanging on and getting the win."
Sikeston started the game strong and fast. After Donaldson scored the first basket of the contest, the Bulldogs went on an 11-0 run and never trailed again.
Wilkins, a Missouri Hall of Fame coach who spent time at Parma and Kelly in the 1970s and early 1980s, said his young team just couldn't keep up with the deeper Bulldogs down the stretch.
"They just play so many bodies and that hurt us as much as anything," Wilkins said. "We probably were only six or seven kids deep. I think we might have finally wore down and they were able to get to some balls that we couldn't get to. They were just a lot deeper than we are."
Houston scored 19 points for the Patriots. Andrew Jelks, a 6-foot-7 Division I football recruit, finished up with 12 points.
"We have played our best five basketball games in a row and this was the best game we've played all year long -- we're getting there," Wilkins said.
Will Holifield led Sikeston's customary balanced scoring attack with 13 points. Darryl Howard had 12 points with seven rebounds, five assists and six steals. Hatchett battled foul trouble all night but still finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
Corey Porter chipped in with nine points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Junior point guard Terry Jamison had his consecutive free throw streak snapped at 26 straight. He finished with six points and five assists.
Sikeston's bench out-scored Henry County's bench 19-5. Eldridge Gibson led the Bulldog bench with eight points.
The Sikeston J.V. team improved to 11-0 on the season with a 68-52 victory over Henry County.
The Bulldogs led 18-11 after one and 39-22 by halftime. The put the game away in the third quarter, taking a 53-34 lead into the final frame.
Sikeston was led by Markeith Bratcher's 15 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks. Kyland Gross followed up with 12 points. Vashawn Ruffin had 11 points and six rebounds in a half of action. J.T. Jones had 11 points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals.
|Henry Co.||10||15 19 20||-||64|
SIKESTON (70) -- Will Holifield 13, Darryl Howard 12, Janeil Hatchett 11, Corey Porter 9, Eldridge Gibson 8, Terry Jamison 6, Vashawn Ruffin 5, Caleb McGee 4, Keldon Warfield 2. FG 19, FT 14-22, F 26. (3-pointers: Holifield 3, Ruffin 1, Hatchett 1, Howard 1. Fouled out: none).
HENRY COUNTY (64) -- Brandon Donaldson 20, Blane Houston 19, Andrew Jelks 12, Evan Smith 5, LaQuan McFerren 4, Shaquille Hayes 4. FG 17, FT 18-25, F 16. (3-pointers: Houston 4. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (68) -- Markeith Bratcher 15, Kyland Gross 12, Vashawn Ruffin 11, J.T. Jones 11, Cord Sheehy 7, Reese Porter 6, Blake Flannigan 4, Rayshundre Jackson 2. FG 29, FT 7-9, F 22. (3-pointers: Sheehy 1. Fouled out: none).
HENRY COUNTY (52) -- Amairi Cook 11, Tre Cowan 10, Storm Hilliard 8, Terrance Lyons 8, Tanner Boley 7, Dante Howard 5, Jordan Hayes 2, Deon Howard 1. FG 18, FT 10-25, F 14. (3-pointers: Boley 1, Cowan 1. Fouled out: none).