(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
FARMINGTON -- For the first minute in Saturday's Class 4 Quarterfinal game, Imagine College Prep showed how explosive they can be in spurts, scoring the game's first seven points against Sikeston.
The rest of the night, No. 1 ranked Sikeston showed how explosive they can be for an entire game as they demolished the Bears 82-44 at the Farmington Civic Center.
With the win, Sikeston (28-0) qualified for the Show-Me Showdown for the third time in school history and the first time since 2006. The Bulldogs will play St. Joseph Lafayette in a Class 4 semifinal matchup on Thursday at Mizzou Arena at 3:30 p.m.
The victory was sweet for the Bulldogs, who have put out state caliber teams every year since their second place finish in 2006, but have come up short of reaching the final four each time.
"This is big for our program," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "We've had some really good teams that couldn't make it back. I'm just happy our kids have a chance to play there again."
Imagine Prep, a talented and quick St. Louis charter school that upset state-ranked Miller Career Academy in district play, came out of the gates blazing with seven quick points in less than a minute.
"We knew they would come out fired up and ready to play," Holifield said. "We knew they were going to have spurts, but we hung in there and just played our game."
The Bulldogs responded to Imagine Prep's 7-0 run to start the game with a 16-0 run of their own -- very quickly the rout was on and the Bears were in trouble.
Sikeston got going with a 3-pointer from Corey Porter, a steal and pull-up jumper by Will Holifield, and three consecutive conventional 3-point plays by Janeil Hatchett, Darryl Howard and Porter to send the loud and deafening Bulldog fan base into a frenzy.
"They're incredible," Imagine Prep coach Tony Irons said of the Bulldogs. "When you play against a team that has 10 guys and there's no drop-off, it's tough to keep up with them. They've got a lot of guys that are confident basketball players and they have a good feel for each other. That's something that a lot of times you can't teach. That comes from playing and having experience. We're young and this is a little bit overwhelming for our kids. That's one of the best teams we've played all year, hands down. They've got a good program."
The Bulldogs ended up holding a 26-14 lead after one quarter.
"We had a great run," Holifield said. "At that time we were able to build our lead and set our pace and tempo for the game. I thought they had some really good players and they have been playing well. I knew they were a quality team. But our point of emphasis was to establish our tempo and pace."
Sikeston led 28-16 on a Hatchett tip-in, but Imagine Prep caught fire again, going on an 8-0 run capped by a one-handed jam by 6-foot-6 senior Sean Carr to cut the lead to 28-24 with 4:12 left in the first half.
But a free throw by Sikeston's Terry Jamison and two free throws by Holifield after a technical foul on Imagine's Otho Jones for elbowing Jamison after a loose ball scramble ended the Bears' run and turned the momentum once again.
The incident triggered another huge run by the Bulldogs with Kil'Ron Coleman draining back-to-back 3-pointers from the exact same spot in the left corner. Sikeston closed the half on a 16-4 run to take them into halftime with a 44-28 lead.
Irons said Sikeston's depth began to wear down his team, which is in just its sixth year of varsity basketball competition.
"We have a lot of young players and that's something that is hard to prepare because a lot of them don't know how to react to playing that type of style for that long," said Irons, whose team finished 12-13. "I knew coming in that if we didn't do a better job of slowing the game down, not really taking the air out of the ball, but looking to find times to attack and not get caught up going 32 minutes full speed with them, then it was going to be a problem. They ended up getting away from us early."
The third quarter has been Sikeston's strongest quarter for most of the season and Saturday was no different as the Bulldogs completely put the game out of reach with a 34-9 run to build a 78-37 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
"We came out in the first three minutes of the second half and were able to build on our lead and put ourselves in a good position," Holifield said. "We knew we had to come out in the second half with intensity and build on our lead. I was really proud of our kids with the way they responded. I think with our depth we were able to wear them down."
With such a large lead and with the mercy rule keeping the clock running, Holifield elected to sit his starters the entire fourth quarter and finished up the game with the junior varsity squad for the final five-plus minutes.
As the final seconds ticked down, Sikeston's huge crowd that covered more than half of the Farmington Civic Center came to its feet to applaud their team's effort.
"Our fans have been hungry for this for a long time and they appreciate the time and hard work that our players have put in over the years," Holifield said.
Sikeston drilled 8-of-19 from 3-point range and grabbed 29 rebounds. Overall from the field, Sikeston shot 30-59 (51 percent).
Sikeston was led in scoring by Hatchett's 14 points. Howard had 13 points and four assists. Holifield had 12 points and five rebounds. Keldon Warfield chipped in with 10 points and five rebounds.
Jamison had eight points, four assists and five steals.
The Bulldogs had 11 different players reach the scoring column compared to Imagine's seven. Standout sophomore Martavian Payne led the Bears with 17 points.
"Their pressure and their press and the fresh bodies after bodies just took its toll on us," Irons said. "It's so hard to sustain that level of play. They do a great job of speeding you up when you're trying to slow it down. They take you out of what you want to do and that's something that they do very well. There's a reason why they're undefeated. I guess we're not the first team to have that type of problem."
IMAGINE PREP (44) -- Martavian Payne 17, Sean Carr 9, Otho Jones 7, Eric Clark 5, Orlando Johnson 4, Terrell Herndon 1, Jeremiah Price 1. FG 12, FT 14-27, F 17. (3-pointers: Payne 2. Fouled out: Price, Clark).
SIKESTON (82) -- Janeil Hatchett 14, Darryl Howard 13, Will Holifield 12, Keldon Warfield 10, Kil'Ron Coleman 8, Terry Jamison 8, Corey Porter 8, Vashawn Ruffin 3, J.T. Jones 3, Eldridge Gibson 2, Kyland Gross 1. FG 22, FT 14-20, F 17. (3-pointers: Coleman 2, Howard 2, Holifield 2, Ruffin 1, Porter 1. Fouled out: none).