(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
DEXTER -- In past seasons, the Sikeston Bulldogs could dominate a game through pressure defense, forcing turnovers and tempo.
While those aspects are still alive and well for the Bulldogs, this year's version has added another weapon to the arsenal -- outside shooting.
In its season opening victory against Blytheville, Sikeston drained eight 3-pointers.
On Friday night against SEMO Conference foe Dexter, the Bulldogs continued their torrid long distance shooting by making 7-of-10 3-pointers in the first half alone, propelling the team to a 68-35 victory at the Bearcat Event Center.
Sikeston, now winners of 32 straight games, only attempted two more 3-pointers in the second half, missing both, but the message was clear -- the Bulldogs are dangerous from beyond the arc.
"We spend a lot of time working on shooting the basketball," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "Our kids have really bought in. They've spent a lot of time with it and I think it will pay off for us this season."
The Bulldogs' red hot shooting also left Dexter coach Rob Nichols shaking his head at the performance.
"If they shoot it like this, there's nothing we can do and nothing most people can do to stay in the game," Nichols said. "I thought Vashawn Ruffin shot the ball amazing. A couple of them hit a few deep ones in transition. If they do that, you've got to tip your hat to them. It just shows the work they've put in shooting the basketball."
The Bulldog staples -- full-court press and pressure defense -- were also effective, forcing 25 Dexter turnovers in the game, many leading to transition buckets.
However, Holifield doesn't feel his team's defense is close to the level he expects as the season progresses.
"You can tell we've got a lot of work to do," Holifield said. "We've got to get to a different level with intensity and doing things the correct way. It's early and we understand that. We're just looking forward to getting better each day."
Sikeston quickly established a lead in the first quarter, opening the game with an 8-2 run to ballooned to 15-4, but a Tyler Miller 3-pointer at the buzzer briefly stopped the bleeding for the Bearcats at 15-7.
The floodgates opened in the second quarter, however, as Sikeston exploded for 26 points and forced 11 turnovers.
Ruffin scored 12 of his game-high 20 points in the second quarter as the Bulldogs took a 41-20 lead into halftime.
"I thought the kids executed what we wanted to do early in the game, being patient," Nichols. "But fatigue gets to you. We're not real deep compared to them. The kids start seeing you're down seven or eight points and think, 'we've got to score. We've got to get back into it.' You just can't do that against them. Any time it gets up-tempo, that's bad for us and great for them."
Sikeston continued to extend the lead in the third quarter, holding a 58-27 advantage heading into the final frame.
The Bulldogs shot 25-49 (51 percent) from the field and grabbed 26 rebounds.
Kil'Ron Coleman and Terry Jamison each had 13 points. Jamison also added five rebounds and five assists.
Jake Lee and Tyler Miller tied for team high scoring for the Bearcats with 11 points apiece.
"I thought we came out and played well," Holifield said. "We shot the basketball very well in the first half. We had good effort and we're pleased to come out of here with a win."
Now the Bulldogs, seeded first, will have to turn right around and play eight seeded Dexter again tomorrow in the first round of the SEMO Conference Tournament at 5:30 p.m.
Friday's victory marked Sikeston's 11th straight over Dexter since the 2006 season.
"I felt like we competed tonight," Nichols said. "I don't feel like we just laid down and let them whip us. If we can stay positive, games against Sikeston and Charleston is going to make kids better. If they can be positive and not so much see 0-2 and what's down the road. If they can play with these teams, they can play with anybody in this area."
Sikeston's J.V. team improved to 4-1 on the season with a 74-16 victory over Dexter.
Jairius Ray led the way with 16 points. Zach Jackson had 11 and Marquese Parks added 10.
Sikeston 68, Dexter 35
SIKESTON (68) -- Vashawn Ruffin 20, Kil'Ron Coleman 13, Terry Jamison 13, Markeith Bratcher 8, Caleb McGee 5, J.T. Jones 5, Keldon Warfield 4. FG 19, FT 9-13, F 15. (3-pointers: Jamison 3, Ruffin 2, McGee 1, Jones 1. Fouled out: none).
DEXTER (35) -- Jake Lee 11, Tyler Miller 11, Brad Potts 8, D.J. Dowdy 3, Cody Neldon 2. FG 11, FT 7-12, F 13. (3-pointers: Miller 2. Fouled out: none).
Sikeston 74, Dexter 16
SIKESTON (74) -- Jairius Ray 16, Zach Jackson 11, Marquese Parks 10, Peyton Boyd 8, Jeterrence Harris 7, Zach Harrison 6, Aundrea Golden 4, Corbyn Blissett 3, Chris Word 2, Dantrell Brown 2, Gavin O'Brien 2, Steven Baker 2, Reese Porter 1. FG 26, FT 13-18, F 16. (3-pointers: Ray 2, Harris 1. Fouled out: none).
DEXTER (16) -- Blake Horton 6, Devin Hampton 3, Nick Noble 3, Austin Aldridge 2, Cody Gibson 2. FG 2, FT 6-12, F 11. (3-pointers: Horton 2. Fouled out: none).