(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
CARUTHERSVILLE -- The Sikeston Bulldogs have had several tough road games this season and they passed another difficult test on Friday, defeating host Caruthersville 79-71.
Caruthersville had erased a 17-point first half deficit and taken a one-point lead in the third quarter, but Sikeston stepped up with a big fourth quarter and was able to seal the game at the free throw line.
"I was really proud of our team's effort," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "I thought we came out early in the first quarter and established ourselves, but you have to give Caruthersville credit, they came back and cut into our lead and did a great job. I thought our seniors really stepped up and made big plays late in the game. It's just a good win for our team, going in on their home court."
The Bulldogs (17-3) led just 55-54 after three quarters of play, but Sikeston's big-game experience paid off in the fourth. Time after time, Sikeston came up with big plays.
The key play was made by senior Keldon Warfield. Sikeston was clinging to a 70-66 lead with 57 seconds left when Warfield drove baseline, scored and was fouled. He made the free throw to give the Bulldogs a 73-66 lead.
Senior point guard Terry Jamison then iced the game with six straight free throws.
"They showed great leadership," Holifield said. "I was very proud of their effort. They all made plays down the stretch and they showed what kind of leaders they are."
The Bulldogs had started the game on fire, exploding out of the gates for a 25-11 lead after one quarter of play.
Sikeston led by as much as 29-12 early in the second quarter.
Caruthersville coach David Heeb said he made a tactical error to start the game by not attacking and pressuring the ball, but rather, backing up in an effort to contain the Bulldogs' perimeter shooting and not allow dribble penetration.
"We were going to try to match up with them a little more and take away the 3-point line and we just got lost," Heeb said. "I tried to back them up and keep them in front of us. But it put our kids in a defensive mindset, instead of an offensive mindset. Sikeston blows a lot of teams out when they're playing well and we weren't playing well at all early."
Coupled with mounting foul problems for the Bulldogs, the Tigers adjusted their defense in the second quarter and were able to trim the Bulldog lead to 41-29 by halftime.
The third quarter, however, was all Caruthersville.
The Tigers (11-5) steadily chipped away at the Bulldog lead in the quarter behind the hot shooting of Elbie Fonda. The senior guard hit two 3-pointers to get the Tigers going offensively, but also firing up the large home crowd.
Sophomore standout Darrell Monroe gave the Tigers their first lead since it was 2-0 with a conventional 3-point play with 3:07 left in the third to lead 53-52.
The Tigers were rolling and Caruthersville faithful were feeling an upset was brewing.
"We made a switch to our press at halftime that, to be honest, we haven't done in the three years I've been here," Heeb said. "That adjustment worked and it is what got us back in the game because the kids anticipated the passes better. Once we caused a couple turnovers and made a couple shots and this gym got rocking -- I mean that's the loudest I've ever heard our gym."
But the Bulldogs were able to silence the home crowd by closing out the game strong.
Leading 56-54, Sikeston senior Kil'Ron Coleman hit a 17-foot jumper and then converted a 4-point play as he hit the 3-pointer and was fouled by the Tigers' Jamal Johnson.
The sequence gave the Bulldogs a 62-54 lead and they never looked back. Sikeston led by as much as 11 at two different points in the fourth quarter.
Caruthersville ratcheted up the pressure to cut the lead to 70-66 with 1:19 to go, but Warfield's drive ended any hopes for the Tigers.
The Bulldogs had six different players reach double figures in scoring. By contrast, the Tigers only had six players that logged minutes in the game. Sikeston's bench outscored Caruthersville's bench, 26-4.
"They can all shoot it," Heeb said of the Bulldogs. "That's what makes them so hard to guard. You can't key in on one guy or two guys or three guys. Whoever they put in the game can knock down a 15-footer, an 18-footer, a 3-pointer. They get you helping and recovering because they can all drive. It just puts so much pressure on your defense."
Warfield finished with a career-high 18 points while also grabbing 11 rebounds. Sophomore J.T. Jones finished with 15 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.
"They did a great job on the boards," Holifield said. "That's been a point of emphasis of ours the past couple weeks. Hopefully we'll get better in that area."
Jamison, Coleman and Markeith Bratcher each finished with 11 points. Jamison also had nine assists. Vashawn Ruffin added 10 points despite missing nearly the entire second half with foul trouble.
Caruthersville was led by Monroe's 21 points and 15 rebounds. Steve Rodgers followed up with 19 points. Johnson and Fonda each had 10.
"Gregg and I were teasing each other on the phone the other night, we're probably the two smallest teams in the state in Class 3 and 4," Heeb said. "But watching us in there rebounding tonight against each other was just awesome. Two teams just absolutely battling each other."
The Bulldogs' free throw shooting in the fourth quarter and Caruthersville's poor shooting from the charity stripe were crucial factors in the game.
Sikeston was 11-13 in the fourth quarter and 13-19 in the game while Caruthersville shot a paltry 13-of-31 (42 percent) for the game.
"You can sum the whole game up in one sentence -- they made free throws and we didn't -- period," Heeb said. "But like I told the boys, I think Sikeston right now is playing better than anybody in this part of the state. The way they're shooting the ball, the way they're pressuring, how deep they are -- and the thing they don't get credit for is how physical they are. They are so physical and they rebound hard."
The Bulldogs finished with 45 rebounds in the game, including 20 on the offensive end.
The Bulldogs will host SEMO Conference rival Poplar Bluff on Friday. Caruthersville will host the Bootheel Conference Tournament starting Monday. The Tigers garnered the top seed.
Sikeston's J.V. team improved to 14-2 on the season with a 67-29 victory over Caruthersville.
Sikeston led 20-4 after one quarter and 48-18 by halftime.
Every player on the roster scored for the Bulldogs led by Jeterrence Harris and Zach Jackson with 12 points apiece. Chris Scott added 10 points.
Jairius Ray had six steals. Corbyn Blissett had seven assists and Reese Porter and Steven Baker each had eight rebounds to lead the team.
SIKESTON (79) -- Keldon Warfield 18, J.T. Jones 15, Kil'Ron Coleman 11, Terry Jamison 11, Markeith Bratcher 11, Vashawn Ruffin 10, Caleb McGee 3. FG 24, FT 13-19, F 21. (3-pointers: Coleman 2, Ruffin 2, McGee 1, Jamison 1. Fouled out: Ruffin).
CARUTHERSVILLE (71) -- Darrell Monroe 21, Steve Rodgers 19, Jamal Johnson 10, Elbie Fonda 10, Belton McWilliams 7, Tyler Cobb 4. FG 20, FT 13-31, F 15. (3-pointers: Rodgers 3, Fonda 2, Johnson 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (67) -- Jeterrence Harris 12, Zach Jackson 12, Chris Scott 10, Reese Porter 8, Jairius Ray 6, Corbyn Blissett 5, Peyton Boyd 4, Dantrell Brown 2, Marquise Parks 2, Zach Harrison 2, Gavin O'Brien 2, Steven Baker 2. FG 29, FT 3-9, F 14. (3-pointers: Harris 1, Jackson 1. Fouled out: none).
CARUTHERSVILLE (29) -- Malik Monroe 8, Jeremy Grant 8, Jerrod Shackleford 4, Coleman Tramble 2, Charles Huffman 2, Terry Manns 2, Daniel Fugate 2, Cortez Gooden 1. FG 12, FT 5-15, F 11. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none).