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Thursday, Nov. 27, 2014

Top sports stories of 2011

Saturday, December 31, 2011

(Photo)
Sikeston seniors, from left, Janeil Hatchett, Will Holifield, Darryl Howard and Corey Porter hold the state championship trophy after defeating St. Francis Borgia in the Class 4 state championship game
(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
Nothing beats being perfect, which is why the 2010-11 Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team stands above all else as the Standard Democrat Sports Department's top story of 2011.

The Bulldogs hoisted their first-ever state basketball championship all while continuing an unblemished record of 30-0.

The city of Sikeston was buzzing. Bulldog pride could be seen on every corner and every store front window as the Bulldogs continued to amaze and rack up win after win.

With four seniors leading the way, the Sikeston Bulldogs became a dominant force right out of the gate.

Seniors Janeil Hatchett, Darryl Howard, Corey Porter and Will Holifield were the heart and soul behind the historic season.

Hatchett, the do-it-all player, led the Bulldogs with a 12.1 points per game average. He also had 6.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

Howard, a blazing-fast, defensive stopper, averaged 11.7 points, 4.3 steals and 3.4 assists per game.

As a terrorizing threat from behind the arc, Holifield scored 10.4 points per game.

And quite possibly the most important cog in the machine, Porter, a 6-2 big man who performed above and beyond what his physical presence would suspect, averaged just over 10 points a game to go with a team-leading 7.2 rebounds.

From there, the wins kept piling on.

First, came a SEMO Conference Tournament title. Then, a St. Dominic Christmas Tournament title in their first year of participating. Next, they ended the regular season with a flawless 24-0 record.

The Bulldogs continued with a thrilling district championship win over their hated rival, the Notre Dame Bulldogs, giving them a school record of 26 wins, breaking the previous mark set by the 1950 and 1951 teams.

For the third-straight year, the Bulldogs rolled over the Farmington Knights during the sectional round and continued with an 82-44 thrashing of Imagine College Prep in the quarterfinal round.

With the win over Imagine, the Bulldogs qualified for the Show Me Showdown for the third time in school history and first time since 2006.

In their first game at Mizzou Arena, Sikeston took on St. Joseph Lafayette. Like 28 previous victims had fallen, the Bulldogs wore down the Fighting Irish in a 64-43 win.

Waiting for them in the championship game, was none other than the St. Francis Borgia Knights -- a team that defeated the Bulldogs in the state championship game in 2006 and also knocked Sikeston out of the playoffs the past two seasons in the quarterfinal round.

Sikeston avenged many heartbreaks against the Knights as they completed one of the most impressive feats in any sport -- remain perfect and win a state championship.

Sikeston's 74-55 win over their longtime nemesis during the Class 4 state championship is the first-ever state basketball championship in school history.

Doing it in a perfect 30-0 fashion, automatically etched their names into the Missouri Hall of Fame.

No. 2 -- Otto Porter

Every move he made was watched and adored by countless fans.

His stat lines were the topic of discussion among coffee shops and online message boards and every fan had their own opinion on where his game would best fit at the college level.

Otto Porter, Jr. is perhaps the greatest player to come out of one of the most historic basketball schools in the state of Missouri and one of the best from the state -- period.

His 'rock star' senior season at Scott County Central High School was watched in awe as Porter dazzled fans with an almost effortless ability to score, rebound and simply, play the game he loves.

Porter led the Braves to their third-straight Class 1 state championship giving Scott Central their 15th title overall. While leading the Braves to a 29-2 record, he averaged 30 points and 14 rebounds a game during his senior season.

After almost every game the 6-9 superstar played, kids, adults and even opposing teams waited for Porter to emerge from his locker room just so they could catch a glimpse, grab an autograph or shake the hand of the next big thing.

Hour long autograph sessions became the norm after Porter and the Braves trounced whoever was on the schedule that particular night. He signed shoes, programs, t-shirts, magazine covers that featured his photo and even a baby.

Porter's decision on where he would play his college ball became a question among every high school fan's mind. Every gym, whether Porter was there or not, was buzzing with assumptions and opinions on where he would land.

Former Missouri head coach Mike Anderson would routinely visit Ronnie Cookson Gymnasium as did Kansas assistant and former NBA player Danny Manning, all trying to woo Porter to their respective schools.

After months of speculation and numerous assumptions by fans, Porter finally chose Georgetown University.

As a Hoya freshman, Porter has averaged 8.8 points per game and is the team's leading rebounder with 6.6 a game. He's shooting .526 percent from the floor and averages 27.3 minutes a contest.

He also received a sterling compliment from famed NCAA basketball announcer Dick Vitale who said via Twitter, "Otto Porter will be special," after Porter scored 14 points and hauled in 14 rebounds against the nation's No. 4 team in the country, Louisville, in Georgetown's 71-68 victory against the Cardinals.

Porter continues to catch the eye of basketball fans just as he did during his senior campaign at Scott County Central.

The only difference now is, he's doing it on a national level.

No. 3. -- Charleston baseball

It was a year of firsts for the Charleston Bluejays baseball program during 2011.

The Bluejays, who finished with season with a 16-11 record, pulled together when time was at it's most crucial and put together an improbable run through the Class 2 state tournament.

They won their first-ever district baseball championship in school history and also earned their first trip to the Show Me Showdown in Springfield -- and they couldn't have done it in a more dramatic fashion.

Starting at the Class 2, District 2 tournament, the Bluejays won four-straight games by one run -- and they all came in Charleston's last at-bat.

Earning their way to the championship game, Charleston took care of Greenville 5-4 in the semifinal round and then set their sights on Bloomfield during the championship game.

With Charleston's star pitcher, James Naile, dueling Bloomfield's Paul Fox, the Bluejays relied heavily on Naile's right arm and late game heroics from Hunter Dugan to bring home their first district title.

Naile limited the Wildcats to four hits and struck out eight to earn the championship win while Dugan line a single just inside the right field foul pole to send the game-ending run across the plate.

Naile carried his team on the mound during the district tournament throwing 15 1/3 innings in just five days. It was his third win of the postseason.

Next on Charleston's plate was the Malden Green Wave.

Down 4-0 in the bottom of the fifth, Charleston's bats came alive with five runs on four hits to take the lead. After Malden tied it a half inning later, the Bluejays, once again, came through in the clutch when Trey Watkins scored on a passed ball for the game-winning run.

Naile picked up his fourth consecutive win after pitching two innings of relief.

But Charleston's most respected and well-known right arm saved his best performance for one of the states' baseball powerhouses.

During their quarterfinal game against the Valle Catholic Warriors, Naile pitched the game of a lifetime.

He held Class 2's top-ranked team to five hits in seven scoreless innings as Marshall Stallings drove in the game's only run to propel Charleston into the Show Me Showdown for the first time in school history.

Naile won five-straight post season games for the Bluejays.

Their magic ran out, however, once Charleston traveled west to Springfield.

The Bluejays fell 4-3 to New Bloomfield during the semifinals and 11-10 to Clever in extra innings to bring a fourth place finish back to Charleston.

Naile, who finished his senior season with an 11-2 record, 122 strikeouts and a tiny 1.35 ERA, signed a letter of intent to play baseball with Parkland University. Fellow seniors Ethan Browning and Danny McKinney also signed college scholarships to William Woods University and Williams Baptist, respectively.

No. 4 -- Sikeston soccer

The Sikeston soccer team set record after record in 2011, finishing with their best season in school history.

The Bulldogs finished at 20-5 and made it all the way to the state quarterfinals before seeing their season come to an end to eventual state runner-up Trinity Catholic 1-0. The 20 wins was a school record and the Bulldogs also set a record for the most goals scored as a team.

Goalkeeper, senior Michael Gipson, also had 11 shutouts, the most by any goalie in Sikeston history.

The Bulldogs started fast, building an 8-3 record before losing to perennial favorite Jackson 4-3 in a wild, double overtime contest at the Sikeston Sports Complex. However, Sikeston didn't fold after the loss, going on an impressive 12-game winning streak that culminated in a district championship.

Sikeston went into districts as the top seed and easily dispatched Fredericktown 8-0 in the semifinals, setting up a championship game against Perryville. An early goal by senior Hunter Williams gave the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead and Gipson and the Sikeston defense thwarted Perryville scoring chances the rest of the game. The district title was the first for Sikeston since 2005.

The Bulldogs weren't finished, hosting Farmington in a Class 2 sectional game. Playing in a heavy rain early in the contest, Sikeston jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of play.

Farmington fought back in the second half, tying the game at 2-2, only to see Sikeston's Brandon Goodwin score on a header seconds later.

A free kick for Farmington with 14 minutes to play knotted things up at 3-3 and the two teams went to overtime, with somebody's season in the balance.

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Goodwin scored his third goal of the night with 9:33 remaining in the first overtime, giving Sikeston the first playoff win in school history.

Sikeston lost the next game to Trinity Catholic, ending their season at 20-5.

Williams and Goodwin both earned all-state honors. Williams was named to the first team after scoring 26 goals and finishing with 21 assists. Goodwin was a second team member after leading the team with 27 goals.

Williams was also the region's offensive player of the year, earning all-region honors along with Goodwin and Gipson. Williams and Goodwin were also first team all-conference and all-district.

Named to the all-conference second team was Gipson, junior Paul Hughes and sophomore Chase Baron while Tyler McClinton and Josh Bill were put on the honorable mention list.

Gipson and Bill were also named first team all-district while Hughes, Baron and McClinton were given second team nods.

No. 5 -- Sikeston's streak snapped

For the first time since 2007, the SEMO Conference Tournament trophy has a new home as the Charleston Bluejays stunned the top-seeded and three-time defending tournament champion Sikeston on their home floor, 75-71 in front of a capacity crowd at the Field House on Dec. 9.

It was the third time Charleston has won the tournament after capturing the title in 2006 and 2007, which were the first two years of the tournament after it replaced the Sikeston Invitational. The win also ended Sikeston 35-game winning streak and snapped the Bulldogs' 51-game home winning streak, the third longest winning streak in state history according to the MSHSAA records book. Sikeston last lost at home in 2007 to Jackson in the semifinals of the SEMO Conference Tournament.

The win was also the first time Charleston defeated Sikeston since 2006, snapping a losing streak of five games to the Bulldogs.

In true Charleston and Sikeston fashion, the game went down to the wire. There were 12 lead changes and nine ties in the game with neither team holding a lead of more than six points.

Charleston's Greg Tucker, a returning all-stater, sank two free throws with five seconds left to ice the victory for the Bluejays.

"I told the kids at the beginning that we would have to leave our guts out on the floor because I knew it would be a relentless game because Sikeston had to uphold a lot and their kids really fought for it," Charleston coach Danny Farmer said after the game. "We had to play great and we had some kids play better than they've played before."

Leading the charge was junior point guard Ryan Parham who carried the team by scoring 15 of his game-high 23 points in the second half. Normally not a dangerous perimeter shooter, Parham showed his range by sinking three 3-pointers.

Jamaul Gray scored 12 points and Krushon Scott, who also was a force on the boards, added 10 points for the Bluejays.

Sikeston was only 4-for-17 from the 3-point line in the game. Vashawn Ruffin hit three of those 3-pointers on his way to a team-high 17 points.

Sophomore J.T. Jones followed up with 16 points, nine rebounds and four steals while Terry Jamison had 15 points and four assists.