(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
FARMINGTON -- For seniors Will Holifield and Corey Porter, some of their fondest memories still remain with Sikeston's 2006 state qualifying team.
It was there that both of the then-seventh graders handed out towels and cups of water to the Bulldogs they looked up to.
"All I remember is two little seventh graders, me and Corey, rubbing each others head every time someone stepped to the free throw line for good luck," Holifield said.
"Probably one of the most exciting moments of my life was when Julian Beard dunked on an Ozark player that was 6-9," Porter said. "The roof about flew off Mizzou Arena."
Now, with their 81-44 quarterfinal win over Imagine College Prep in hand, Holifield, Porter and the rest of the Bulldogs are hoping to make memories of their own.
"We've been the ones sitting on the end of the bench, we've been the towel boys and the water boys," said Holifield. "Now it's our turn to step up and try and bring one home for Sikeston."
The Bulldogs will be moving on to the Show Me Showdown at Mizzou Arena in Columbia where they will have a chance to bring home their first ever Class 4 state basketball championship.
"This is a big accomplishment," Porter said. "It's just a good feeling. We had the mindset of coming in here and executing.
"This is good," Porter added, "but the main goal is a state title."
It's been a challenging road to their third final four in school history and first since 2006, however, but it hasn't been without a learning curve.
The Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 1 in their Class, have had to deal with crushing defeats at the hands of St. Francis Borgia the last two seasons. Both losses came at the Farmington Civic Center in the quarterfinal round -- a place that has not been kind to Sikeston fans.
"We've learned that you don't want to play Borgia in the quarterfinals," Holifield joked. "You just have to treasure the moment even when we come to a building like this. You try to exercise some demons and just play as hard as you can with no regrets."
The Bulldogs have struggled in their recent games at the Civic Center. They are 2-5 in their last seven contests there.
"It helps playing on this court two previous times and having to battle even if it was a loss," Porter said. "Coming here we were pretty confident that we wasn't going to let this happen three years in a row."
And with the Borgia Knights not a factor in whether Sikeston made it to state or not, the Bulldogs weren't opposed to battling someone else for a change.
"Oh yeah, definitely," Holifield said about it being somewhat easier this time around. "We knew that if we get to play Borgia this year it was going to be in the state title game. We'll take our chances with them then if we have to in the championship."
Although, Borgia is still alive as one of the four Class 4 teams vying for their third-straight title. They will play Soldan on Thursday -- directly following Sikeston's semifinal game against the Lafeyette Fighting Irish out of St. Joseph.