(Brent Shipman, Staff)
"We made a lot of unforced mistakes and they capitalized on them," Sikeston's Keyonna Blissett said of her team's second half troubles. "That's what a good team does. If we wouldn't have made those mistakes, then this would have been our game."
Before their third quarter turnaround, the Lady Mules (12-5) struggled to keep up with the Lady Bulldogs (7-5) fast-paced style of play. Opening up the game on a 9-4 run, Sikeston was able build a 33-25 advantage going into the break, thanks in part to 13 points by Tyangela Gibson coming off the bench.
Following an early third quarter basket by Vonteria Applewhite to push their lead to 10, however, Sikeston saw the momentum slowly start to shift in the Lady Mules direction.
Slowly cutting into their deficit the first six minutes of the frame, Poplar Bluff was able to close within two on a Courtney Knuckles basket before Danielle Farmer tied the game up a few seconds later on a pair of free throws.
Going on an 6-0 run soon after, the Lady Mules were able to take the lead for the first time before a Kelsey Bates layup left the Mules 43-39 to end the quarter.
"We were on fire the first half," Lady Bulldogs coach Matt Schonhoff said. "In the second half careless mistakes led to easy points for them.
"When that happens, you may start getting down a little bit on yourself and forgot some things you're suppose to do on the defensive end."
Led by Marissa Webb's nine fourth quarter points, the Lady Mules opened up the frame on an 11-2 drive before putting the Lady Bulldogs back by as many as 16 late in the frame.
Though the Lady Bulldogs starting closing in on Poplar Bluff in the closing minutes, the Lady Mules were able to hit four of their last six free throws to keep Sikeston from pulling back any closer than ten points.
"We competed for four quarters," Schonhoff said. "We did everything right that we need to do in the first half. That's why we had an eight-point lead at halftime.
"I think our kids just felt like they had enough pride to come out and start executing and playing the way that maybe we should have starting the ball game," Lady Mules coach Kirk Chronister said of his team's second half resurgence. "Sikeston had a lot to do with (our first half struggles.) They were very aggressive on both defense and offense. They're a good ball team."
Leading the Lady Bulldogs in scoring, Gibson finished the night with 19 points while coming away with three steals and two rebounds.
"She's a scorer," Schonhoff said of Gibson. "She comes off the bench and gives us a punch when (Darqueshionna Howard or Blissett) get in foul trouble or need a break."
Second on the team was Asia Liggins, who finished with ten points, 10 rebounds and two assists.
For the Mules, Webb contributed 21 points, including 15 in the second half while also coming down with 11 rebounds on the night.
While he obviously would have like to have come away with the win, Schonhoff was happy to see his girls hang with such a team as talented as the Lady Mules.
"We're extremely proud of the girls," he said. "They competed hard for four quarters and it just goes to show when we play our game we can play against really good competition.
"We've yet to put four quarters together and when we do that we can be pretty tough."
SIKESTON (52) -- Tyangela Gibson 19, Keyonna Blissett 5, Vonteria Applewhite 2, Asia Liggins 10, Taneshia Pulley 2, Aleah Little 8, Ann Dennis 6. FG 22, FT 5-8, F 24. (3-pointers: Little 2, Gibson 1. Fouled out : Darqueshionna Howard, Pulley)
POPLAR BLUFF (62) -- Chelsea Darnell 7, Danielle Farmer 2, Miranda Burroughs 10, Kelsey Bates 7, Sara Eyler 8, Marissa Webb 21, Courtney Knuckles 7. FG 21, FT 18-23, F 12. (3-pointers: Burroughs 2. Fouled out: none)