(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- After winning in the first round of the Class 4, District 1 tournament with a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Fredericktown on Tuesday, the Sikeston Lady Bulldogs were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle once again.
Faced with a 16-point deficit in the fourth quarter against second-seeded Notre Dame on Thursday at the Field House, it appeared Sikeston might have one last miracle left in its season.
The third-seeded Lady Bulldogs managed to cut the lead to seven points with a couple minutes left, but would not get any closer as they fell 63-56.
Sikeston's season ends at 16-10.
Notre Dame (14-12) moves on to the championship game where they will take on top-seeded Dexter tonight at 6 p.m.
"We preached before the game, during timeouts and at halftime, that if this is going to be our last game then we've got to leave it all out on the court," Sikeston coach Matt Schonhoff said. "We had girls hurting and girls that were extremely tired, but they found it in themselves to go out and battle their rival and give them everything they wanted. It's a shame that we came out on the short end tonight."
Sikeston trailed the entire game as Notre Dame always seemed to be on the verge of putting the Lady Bulldogs away.
But Sikeston managed to hang around, refusing to go away, giving Notre Dame head coach Renee Peters enough to make her nervous.
"I was sweating before this game even started because at this point anything can happen -- it's districts, the crowd was in it and they had that sixth man out on the floor when their crowd was getting in it," Peters said. "We just could not seem to pull away, so compliments to them."
Notre Dame led 11-6 after one quarter and it came with a price for Sikeston as starting guard Yalanda Johnson went down with an injury less than a minute in the game and never returned, further disrupting Schonhoff's rotation of an already thin lineup besieged with injuries.
"We lost Yalanda in the first 30 seconds and that really hurt our rotation and it forced people to play extra minutes," Schonhoff said. "We just battled tooth and nail with them and gave them a lot better performance than we did back in January when we played them at their place."
Sikeston was able to cut the lead to 19-15 midway through the second quarter, but Notre Dame finished strong to lead 32-19 at halftime.
Sikeston rallied back in the third quarter, starting off with a 12-3 run to trim Notre Dame's lead to 35-31 with four minutes left in the period.
Notre Dame was able to extend the lead back to double figures by the end of the third, 45-34.
In the fourth quarter, Notre Dame appeared to have the game wrapped up by building a 56-40 lead with 4:31 left in the game.
Sikeston once again rallied back with a Mikala Nichols jumper, Quesha Howard's 3-pointer and two free throws, and steal and layup by Keyonna Blissett to cut the lead to 56-49 with 2:10 left.
Blissett, who had missed the last few games with a knee injury, was inserted into the lineup out of necessity as Schonhoff had no other substitutes left when Tyangela Gibson fouled out with three minutes to go.
When Blissett scored and drew the foul, the Sikeston crowd came alive, sensing an upset was brewing.
"We only had one sub left and we asked her if she could go and she said she could try it," Schonhoff said of Blissett. "The time presented itself to get her in and she finished a really good high school career on a good note. Keyonna got a big basket and the foul which got the crowd into it."
Blissett's basket proved to be Sikeston's last real shot at a comeback as Notre Dame was able to extend the lead to 63-50 with less than a minute to go.
Sikeston closed the game on a 6-0 run to reach the final margin.
"I was very proud of the way we held our composure," Peters said. "Their shots were falling and we saw our lead dwindle and we started playing with a little bit of fret and fear. Every time they would add to the score it would set us back a little bit. Sikeston's a good team. Matt's done a wonderful job with them. They've got good athletes and we knew we would have to play well tonight to beat them."
Sikeston drained five 3-pointers in the game led by Howard's 4-of-7 shooting from beyond the arc. She led the team with 17 points.
Peters admitted she wasn't prepared for Sikeston's perimeter shooting.
"When they lit up those 3's on the outside I'm like, 'oh this is the part of their game I'm not really prepared for,'" Peters said. "And when that happened, it's districts, it's crazy, and anything can happen."
While Sikeston was hitting on the outside, Notre Dame misfired on every one of its 3-point attempts.
"They have very, very good shooters," Schonhoff said. "We wanted to make sure we closed out on shooters. We did our job. They hit zero 3's. That's good defense."
Notre Dame made up for it by shooting well from the free throw line, making 21-of-27 (78 percent). Sikeston was just 7-20 (35 percent).
"Free throws was the difference," Schonhoff said. "They hit their's and we didn't."
Sikeston got a strong game from junior Aleah Little with 13 points on 6-6 shooting from the field, and seven rebounds. Gibson finished with 11 points and four steals.
Taneshia Pulley scored eight points with nine rebounds and four assists.
Notre Dame was led by Brooke Bohnert's 21 points and Summer Burger's 19 points.
Sikeston will graduate six seniors: Gibson, Howard, Pulley, Johnson, Danika Garmon and Jalen Peet.
The seniors combined to win 33 games the past two seasons, marking the most wins in a two-year stretch in Sikeston girls history.
"We started off 6-0 and won the Chaffee Tournament, which was a good start for us," Schonhoff said. "We hit some walls and played some tougher competition after that. But if you get 16 wins, to me I think that's a really good year. Obviously there were some games that we thought that we should have won, but that's part of the season. We have some fantastic seniors. They did an excellent job throughout the year and we had some underclassmen that gave us all they had all year. We had really good girls who loved to play the game of basketball and they had good careers here at Sikeston. They're going to go off and do great things in college and make better people of themselves."
SIKESTON (56) -- Quesha Howard 17, Aleah Little 13, Tyangela Gibson 11, Taneshia Pulley 8, Keyonna Blissett 3, Mikala Nichols 2. FG 17, FT 7-20, F 24. (3-pointers: Howard 4, Gibson 1. Fouled out: Gibson).
NOTRE DAME (63) -- Brooke Bohnert 21, Summer Burger 19, Miranda Fowler 7, Annie Siebert 6, Shelby Beussink 6, Madison Huckstep 2, Kayce Landewee 2. FG 21, FT 21-27, F 19. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none).