(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
COLUMBIA -- Sikeston's seniors made a pact back in 2006.
It was on the exact same floor and against the exact same team when they witnessed the Bulldogs come so close to a state championship.
"Me and Corey (Porter), when we were here in 2006, we said one day we were going to be here," Sikeston senior Will Holifield said. "It's just amazing that it finally came true."
"Us seniors, we've been waiting on this since seventh grade," Janeil Hatchett said. "We'd argue and go through this and that but, as seventh graders, we said we were going to get this our senior year."
Holifield, Porter, Hatchett and Darryl Howard were everything a senior was supposed to be on Saturday. They each, in their own way, helped Sikeston to it's first state championship in school history defeating Borgia 74-55 and finishing out a perfect 30-0 season.
"They're hard-working and great students," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said about his seniors. "You just can't say enough. That's what you want from your seniors. It's just been unbelievable."
The four seniors combined to score 60 of the Bulldogs' 74 total points against the Knights. They also combined to play an average of 24 minutes -- to some extent, setting aside their regular way of constantly subbing.
"They've been together for a long time," coach Holifield said. "They've played a lot of basketball games, won a lot of basketball games together. It's going to be difficult to replace them. They bring so much hard work, energy and effort to our program on the court and off the court."
Porter led the tightly-knit group with 24 points, Holifield added 14 points on 4 of 5 shooting from behind the arc, Hatchett added 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds while Howard scored nine points to go with his three steals.
"We've built a good friendship," Howard said. "All of us are friends."
Although they all look at themselves as leaders in some light or another, they all agree that one sticks out the most.
"We're all leaders, but Corey is our main leader," Howard said. "We listen to what Corey has to say. He tells us what to do."
"Corey is always the guy, he'll tell you about yourself," said Will Holifield. "He'll make sure he gets you in line and you listen to him. You've got to have that. We rode him to the finish."
Hatchett agreed with his fellow teammates.
"We're all four leaders. But Corey is the main, vocal leader that will chew you out and tell you to get your butt in business," said Hatchett. "We all just feed off Corey."
Porter said his leadership style comes from a fiery-red hatred of losing. Getting a win, more than anything, is what fuels him to be the leader his Bulldogs look up to.
"I give it my 100," Porter said. "My life is pretty simple -- sports. I don't do much else. I have to be serious and let these guys know that I'm down for winning. I'm down for doing whatever it takes to win."
Porter did just that as he carried the Bulldogs with 14 of his 24 points in the second half.
"He's probably my best friend and I'm so happy we were able to enjoy this together," Holifield said. "He put us on his back in the third and fourth quarter and he carried us. He just played absolutely phenomenal."
It was the perfect ending to what turned out to be the perfect combination of players. Who all just so happened to have the same goal back in the seventh grade.
"We've been playing together for forever -- as long as I can remember," Holifield said. "We've had our ups, we've had our downs. We came together this year and we decided this was our year. We had to make it special."