(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
DEXTER -- Entering the Rib City Shootout, the Sikeston Bulldogs went in as the team to beat.
As it would turn out, they would be beaten. Twice.
For the first time in countless regular season, summer games and junior varsity games in the last year, the Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team lost a game.
"Our kids understand that (a target is on our backs)," Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said. "Our kids have to work to get better. To have the opportunity to play great teams in the summer will only make us better."
The Bulldogs didn't fall to slouches either. Three teams specifically requested they play the defending Class 4 champions including Imagine Prep and Soldan -- two teams in last year's post season -- as well as Dyer County, Tenn.
Sikeston lost to Dyer County and Soldan. The Bulldog junior varsity lost to Leopold's varsity squad.
"We played great teams. They played hard, worked hard and I was really impressed with them." Holifield said about their opposition. "We played well at times and we didn't play well at times."
Sikeston's first game was a quarterfinal rematch against Imagine College Prep. The Bulldogs defeated them 54-41.
In their second game, Sikeston tasted defeat at the hands of Dyer County in possibly the most thrilling game of the day.
Sikeston entered the final seconds with a 62-59 lead, but Dyer County tied it with a 3-pointer sending the game into sudden death overtime.
Dyer County won the tip and had the first chance to end it. Their first shot fell off the mark and Sikeston's Keldon Warfield came down with the rebound.
Dyer County, however, ripped the ball out of Warfield's hands and put up an uncontested layup to win, 64-62.
The Bulldogs bounced back with a 53-46 win over Norwood, Ark., in their third game of the day, but their last would end on a sour note.
Soldan handed Sikeston a 50-37 loss in the main event game to end the first day.
The Tigers' passing and rebounding efforts propelled last season's Class 4 third place finishers over the Bulldogs, who will look to use two summer losses as a learning experience.
"I heard our kids even talking about not used to losing," Holifield said. "I know our kids will learn from this.
"That's what summer is all about," added Holifield. "Getting chances to play and playing great teams. You put yourself in learning situations and there's no doubt we had some learning situations."
The Bulldogs will have a chance to possibly redeem themselves against at least one of the teams that handed them a loss in today's final tournament which will decide the shootout champion.
In their bracket, Sikeston is ranked first, while Soldan is the second seed.
"At times, I saw some really great things," said Holifield, reflecting on the first day. "I've been pleased at times. In the summer you just play a lot. There's many, many things you have to work on to get better."