(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Opposing teams are finding out that they can hang with the Sikeston Bulldogs -- for a while.
But it is stopping them for a full 32 minutes that has proven to be virtually impossible thus far this season.
That's exactly what happened on Friday night as a young and talented Caruthersville squad came into the Field House and traded blows with the Bulldogs for nearly three quarters, but, as Sikeston's previous 18 opponents have found out, they could not stop the inevitable run.
The Bulldogs turned a close game into a comfortable victory in a matter of minutes en route to a 95-68 victory over the Tigers.
Sikeston, now 19-0 on the season, went on a 16-2 run that spanned the third and fourth quarters which blew the game open the rest of the way.
"Sikeston's really good," Caruthersville coach David Heeb said. "It just takes one little thing to give them a run. They just stretched it out on us. If you give them a mistake, they capitalize on them."
The Bulldogs led just 57-50, but they closed the third quarter on a 9-2 run after a Will Holifield 3-pointer with seven seconds left in the period to extend the lead to 66-52.
The Bulldogs out-scored the Tigers 29-16 in the fourth quarter to win going away.
"(Caruthersville) came out and really played hard but we were able to put ourselves in a position to pull away," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "We started creating some turnovers and got some points off turnovers and were able to build a lead."
Caruthersville (14-4) scored the first basket of the game, but Sikeston quickly took the lead and never trailed again. But while the Bulldogs were able to maintain a lead, they never could extend the lead very far.
The Bulldogs led 17-13 after one quarter and they were able to build a 10-point lead at four different junctures in the second quarter highlighted by Eldridge Gibson's one-handed slam on a fast break, but the Tigers were able to get a basket before halftime to trail 43-35.
"I told them at halftime that we probably should've been up 10 points if we just rebounded," Heeb said. "That's our thing -- we rebound the ball pretty good most nights. Tonight we just didn't. But you have to give them credit too for going after them."
Sikeston finished the game with 40 rebounds led by Corey Porter's 11 boards to go with his 16 points and three blocked shots.
Gibson came off the bench for a game-high 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting with 10 rebounds, eight of which came on the offensive end. He also had four steals. Gibson is averaging 15.8 points per game in his last five games to lead the team.
"He does such a great job coming off the bench and putting us in a position to build a lead," Holifield said of Gibson.
Sikeston's bench combined to score 40 points, compared to just four points by the Caruthersville bench.
"That's our key -- that's been our key to success all year," Holifield said. "With the players that we put in, our level of play stays the same or even goes up. That's why it takes nine or 10 guys in our system to do what we do."
In the third quarter, Caruthersville was able to cut the lead to 43-39 on back-to-back baskets by Vohland Fonda, but that was as close as the Tigers could get.
"I did not like how we came out in the second half," Holifield said. "Our first two or three possessions we were careless with the basketball. We didn't have the focus we normally have to start the second half, but I think our kids responded and played well down the stretch."
Sikeston began to extend the lead slowly the rest of the way until the explosion at the end of the quarter.
"When Sikeston is missing shots, you better stop them," Heeb said. "You can't let them get the offensive rebound. That's basically what happened. We didn't capitalize on their missed shots. That left the door open so if they ever did start making shots, then they were going to make a run, and that's exactly what they did. We didn't get out-ran tonight. We got out-rebounded."
Senior Janeil Hatchett was also strong on the glass for the Bulldogs, grabbing six rebounds with seven assists and 10 points.
"He's doing a great job on the boards," Holifield said. "He's doing a lot of good things to help us win basketball games. There's no doubt that he's really got on the boards well at times and he defends well."
Will Holifield had 16 points and six rebounds. Holifield had three 3-pointers as the Bulldogs finished 8-of-19 from behind the arc.
Heeb felt his team put up a solid showing on the road in a hostile environment where Sikeston hasn't lost a game in 45 tries.
"We're really young and this is great for our kids to be in an atmosphere like this, where you're getting insults hurled at you and a big crowd," Heeb said. "This was great for our kids. We enjoyed it -- we enjoyed playing good competition."
Fonda led the Tigers with 17 points followed up by 6-foot-5 Claude Taylor's 15 points.
"They're a good team -- a quality team and hard working," Holifield said of the Tigers. "I think they have a chance to really do something in their district."
CARUTHERSVILLE (68) -- Vohland Fonda 17, Claude Taylor 15, Elbie Fonda 12, Jamal Johnson 10, Darrell Monroe 9, David Shaw 4, Durran Young 1. FG 19, FT 12-17, F 21. (3-pointers: V. Fonda 4, Johnson 2. Fouled out: E. Fonda).
SIKESTON (95) -- Eldridge Gibson 21, Will Holifield 16, Corey Porter 16, Janeil Hatchett 10, Darryl Howard 9, Keldon Warfield 7, Kil'Ron Coleman 7, Terry Jamison 4, Vashawn Ruffin 3, Caleb McGee 2. FG 26, FT 19-31, F 17. (3-pointers: Holifield 3, Porter 2, Ruffin 1, Howard 1, Coleman 1. Fouled out: McGee).
The Sikeston J.V. team improved to 16-0 on the season with a 79-64 victory against Caruthersville (7-5).
Sikeston led 38-35 at the half and was able to pull away in the second half, out-scoring the Tigers 41-29.
Sikeston was led by Markeith Bratcher's 21 points, including five 3-pointers. He also had 10 rebounds, five assists and four steals.
J.T. Jones had 18 points, eight rebounds and four steals. Kyland Gross had 14 points, five assists and four steals. Reese Porter chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Caruthersville was led by Steve Rodgers with 16 points.
CARUTHERSVILLE (64) -- Steve Rodgers 16, Terry Manns 11, Jeremy Grant 10, Elbert Jordan 9, Tyler Grissom 7, Anthony Primer 5, Coleman Tramble 4, Cortez Gooden 2. FG 22, FT 8-16, F 11. (3-pointers: Manns 2, Rodgers 1, Primar 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (79) -- Markeith Bratcher 21, J.T. Jones 18, Kyland Gross 14, Reese Porter 12, Rayshundre Jackson 6, Blake Flannigan 4, Vashawn Ruffin 2, Cord Sheehy 2. FG 30, FT 4-10, F 12. (3-pointers: Bratcher 5. Fouled out: none).