(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
COLUMBIA -- For a brief moment, the Sikeston Bulldogs looked like a dejected basketball team.
With every ounce of momentum behind the Lafayette Fighting Irish, the Bulldogs found themselves looking up at a seven-point deficit early in the second quarter.
Their ferocious defense had no bite, jump shots were missing their mark by a wide margin and the usually energetic bunch seemed down and out.
Enter Vashawn Ruffin.
Only scoring nine points in what would turn around to become a 64-43 Sikeston win in the Class 4 semifinals at Mizzou Arena on Thursday, seven of Ruffin's points came when the Bulldogs needed them the most.
Down 18-13 in the second quarter, Ruffin scored seven-straight points -- two jumpers from mid-range and a 3-pointer from the top of the arc.
"When I get the touch of it, I just started feeling it," said Ruffin. "I just started hitting shots.
"It felt really good."
Ruffin gave Sikeston a 20-18 lead after his personal run of points. The Bulldogs never trailed again after that.
"I just felt like I needed to step up because we were facing adversity," Ruffin said. "I felt like I needed to get into the offense more."
Sensing Ruffin put the Bulldogs back in control, Lafayette called a timeout shortly after his 3-pointer. It sent the Sikeston faithful into a frenzy, as Ruffin hopped back to the bench with a huge grin.
"He's great with the basketball in his hands," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said about Ruffin. "He hit some big shots there in the second quarter when we were struggling a little bit.
On a team full of veteran experience, it was a sophomore stepping up on the big court.
Of course, that's the kind of year Sikeston has had. Every game, it's someone different.
"That's kind of our team," Holifield said. "If you go back and reflect on our season, we've played 29 games and it seems like every game it's someone different.
"Vashawn really played well in that second quarter."
Ruffin leads the 'second-string' of Bulldogs when the starters are regularly subbed out.
The second starting five of the Bulldogs consist of Ruffin, Eldridge Gibson, Caleb McGee, Kil'Ron Coleman and Keldon Warfield. Along with Ruffin, they each have their specific roles they play.
"All five of us work hard in practice," Ruffin said. "We know our roles, all five of us. We just continue to do them.
"My role is to back up Darryl (Howard) and Janeil (Hatchett)," Ruffin added. "My role is to come in and put pressure on the ball at all times."
Not only did they second-team keep up Sikeston's defensive pressure but they put points on the board as well.
The group combined to score 19 points and grab eight rebounds. To go along with his nine first half points, Ruffin shot 5 of 9 from the field while also adding one rebound, one assist and two steals.