(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Opening their season against the Saxony Lutheran Lady Crusaders on Monday, the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs pulled away early before rolling to a 50-22 win.
"I thought we played extremely hard," Sikeston head coach Matt Schonhoff said. "We competed for four quarters and got after it pretty well.
"We played unselfish and got a lot of people the basketball, which was good and our press was effective."
Never trailing, the Lady Bulldogs came out of the gate grabbing a quick 4-2 advantage before reeling off 15-straight points to go up 19-2 on a Quesha Howard 3-pointer with 5:24 to play in the second quarter.
After Natalie Mueller hit a quick free throw to end the Lady Crusaders' scoring drought, Sikeston went back to work on offense, getting four points from Yalonda Johnson on a 12-point Lady Bulldog run.
It was with 21 seconds left in the half that Saxony Lutheran connected on another free throw to leave the Lady Crusaders trailing 31-4 at the break.
On holding Saxony Lutheran to one first half basket, Schonhoff said, "Obviously our speed and defensive closeouts were really, really good.
"It's some things we've been working on a lot in practice. We need to get more live ball turnovers rather than dead ball turnovers. That's what we definitely need to be able to do to succeed this year."
It wasn't until after the Lady Bulldogs started the second half on a 9-0 run that the Lady Crusaders' offense started to click. With Sikeston coming off their press midway through the third quarter, Mueller strung together four-straight points on a basket and a pair of free throws to open up an 11-4 Saxony Lutheran run.
Still trailing 46-15 to start the fourth frame, however, the Lady Crusaders spent the final quarter battling to keep the turbo clock off, but never coming closer than 28 points of Sikeston.
"(Sikeston) backed off the press and we calmed down a little bit," Saxony Lutheran head coach Sam Sides said. "That helped us some. If they had kept the pressure on us we would have probably went rag tag the whole game.
"We shot the ball poorly, which we're not just very good shooters. Our effort was good, we just have to work on our fundamentals. We just don't have any girls that have much basketball experience."
Leading the Lady Bulldogs was Keyonna Blissett, who had 12 points on 6 of 11 shooting to go along with five rebounds and three steals. Close behind, Ty'Angela Gibson finished the contest with nine points and two steals.
With eight points, Taneshia Pulley was 4 of 7 shooting while adding four rebounds, two steals and a block to Sikeston's cause.
As a team, the Lady Bulldogs had 28 rebounds, 13 steals and shot 23 of 60 from the field with seven girls contributing a basket.
Pleased with how his team spread the ball around, Schonhoff said, "That's the way we were last year and that's the way we'll be this year. We have a lot weapons and on any given night somebody can score whatever they want to score.
"But, everybody is going to be around the eight to 12 points range, which is really nice."
For the Lady Crusaders, Maci Daniel and Mueller came away with five points each to lead the team. Daniel added two steals and a rebound while Mueller had a steal and 10 rebounds.
"We handled the ball poorly, which we knew that was our weakness," Sides said. "It's just something we have to work on. We have to take care of the basketball.
"We just stand there and wait for the ball to come to us instead of going and getting it. We have to be more aggressive on the offensive end. I thought we blocked out and rebounded fairly decent."
Next up, Sikeston (1-0) will host Doniphan on Monday at 6 p.m.
Saxony Lutheran (22) -- Abby Hadler 2, Kristy Winter 2, Regan Obermann 4, Maci Daniel 5, Chandler Short 2, Natalie Mueller 5. FG 7, FT 7-19, F 11. (3-pointers: Obermann. Fouled out: none)
Sikeston (50) -- Ty'Angela Gibson 9, Keyonna Blissett 12, Quesha Howard 7, Leah Little 4, Mikala Nichols 6, Taneshia Pulley 8, Yalonda Johnson 4. FG 23, FT 3-9, F 20. (3-pointers: Howard. Fouled out: none)