O'FALLON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs advanced to the semifinal round of the St. Dominic Christmas Tournament on Tuesday with a 70-57 victory over Lutheran-St. Charles.
The top-seeded Bulldogs (8-2), who are the defending champions in the tournament, had a tough battle against the No. 8 seeded Cougars for most of the game but they were able to pull away in the second half to achieve the victory.
Sikeston will take on fifth-seeded Wentzville Holt today in the semifinal at 4 p.m. in a rematch of last year's championship game. Holt defeated No. 4 seed Ft. Zumwalt West 68-43 in its first round matchup.
On Tuesday against Lutheran, Sikeston had trouble putting the Cougars away, leading just 51-46 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs outscored Lutheran 19-11 in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win.
"We haven't played in a while and it took us a while to get going, but once we got into a flow I think we played much better," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "I thought at times in the first half we played well and did some good things and I thought they played well also. In the second half we did a better job of taking away some things that they wanted to do."
Sikeston built a 10-2 lead to start the game but the Cougars (3-5) rallied to cut the score to 16-13 after one quarter.
The Bulldogs maintained the lead through the second quarter, holding as much as a 30-24 edge, but Lutheran again finished the quarter strong to cut the Sikeston lead to 34-33 by halftime.
"I was real proud of our effort our guys put out," Lutheran coach Mike Holtmeier said. "It was a privilege to play a state champion. We knew the intensity and the winning attitude that Sikeston brings into it. That is something we are trying to develop for ourselves. But I think tonight we made a first initial step in kind of mirroring in what we saw in Sikeston."
Lutheran held the lead in the early stages of the third quarter, but Sikeston began to take over the game from there by forcing several Cougar turnovers.
"We were just determined the whole game to play hard, and whatever happened, happened," Holtmeier said. "We really weren't watching the score too much. We didn't want to get caught up in that game. We just wanted to play our kind of game regardless of the score. Sikeston makes that awful tough to do but I think our guys responded pretty well."
The Cougars hit five 3-pointers in the game, but only one in the second half after the Bulldogs made defensive adjustments to contain the shooting.
"I thought we did a good job of covering their shooters and J.T. (Jones) did a good job on the boards," Holifield said. "We actually had more of a flow to the game and we made some shots and that allowed us to build a lead."
Jones had a double-double for the Bulldogs with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Markeith Bratcher led the Bulldogs with 17 points off the bench. Terry Jamison had 15 points, five assists and five steals and Vashawn Ruffin added 14 points.
Sikeston forced 21 turnovers in the game and outrebounded the Cougars 32-27.
Lutheran was led by Logan Kluesner with 20 points. Matt Niewald added 14 points.
"They play at a pace that we've never seen in the last couple years," Holtmeier said. "And so for every member on our team, I know that's the fastest game that they've ever played in their life. I think they just (out-manned) us and outran us."
LUTHERAN (57) -- Logan Kluesner 20, Matt Niewald 14, Kevin Schmelder 9, Kyle Graham 6, Sam Preusser 4, Chris Sheerin 2, Will Brockmeier 2. FG 18, FT 6-10, F 10. (3-pointers: Schmelder 3, Kluesner 2. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (70) -- Markeith Bratcher 17, Terry Jamison 15, Vashawn Ruffin 14, J.T. Jones 12, Keldon Warfield 6, Kil'Ron Coleman 4, Cord Sheehy 2. FG 28, FT 5-10, F 13. (3-pointers: Bratcher 2, Ruffin 1. Fouled out: none).