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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Expectations remain high for Sikeston Bulldogs

Saturday, November 24, 2012

2012-13 Sikeston Bulldogs
SIKESTON -- When the Sikeston Bulldogs tip off its basketball season on Tuesday at Blytheville, the team will have a similar look to what they've had the past few years.

Good quickness. Good athletes. Good shooters. A lot of depth. Not much height.

It's a formula that has been largely successful for coach Gregg Holifield's program, capturing four straight district championships, including an undefeated state title in 2011 and accumulating a record of 120-17 the past five years.

The program has risen to unprecedented heights under Holifield's watch and this season the expectations are very high once again.

Despite losing four starters to graduation, the Bulldogs are already ranked No. 1 in Class 4 in the preseason MBCA/MOsports.com coaches poll and are seeded second in the upcoming SEMO Conference Tournament, only behind defending Class 3 state champion Charleston.

That's the nature of the beast that Holifield's program has become, and he welcomes those expectations for his team.

"I really think this team has a chance to have a great year, but it's going to take some time because of all the inexperience we have in spots," Holifield said. "You don't just lose four starters like we lost -- all four were hard-working, good players -- and not feel that early in the season. We're going to have to really pull together early and do as much as we possibly can."

Graduating from last year's team was all-state point guard Terry Jamison, Caleb McGee, Kil'Ron Coleman and Keldon Warfield -- three of which are playing basketball in college while Warfield is playing football.

The four were major components of the state title team as juniors and they led the Bulldogs to a 23-5 record last year before falling by one point to Imagine Prep in the Class 4 state quarterfinals, 65-64.

But the cupboard is far from bare as three of the team's top four scorers return led by all-state senior guard Vashawn Ruffin, who led the team in scoring with 14 points per game, with four assists and three rebounds.

The 5-foot-10 Ruffin has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, dropping 50 3-pointers last year, but this year he will move over to the point guard position with the loss of Jamison.

"He'll do a good job," Holifield said of Ruffin. "He's a very capable ball-handler and he's a good passer. Vashawn's a competitor and he's embraced the role of point guard and he's taken a leadership role in practice and that's what you've got to have out of your 1-guard."

Joining Ruffin as a top returner is honorable mention all-region performer J.T. Jones, a 6-3 junior who averaged 10.5 points and seven rebounds per game off the bench last year.

Senior Markeith Bratcher (6-1) also returns after averaging 8.8 points and draining 29 3-pointers off the bench last year.

"Those are all guys that have a lot of experience," Holifield said. "We return three of our top four scorers from last year, so we do have experience coming back even though we lost four starters. So from that perspective I think we're going to be okay. I know the kids understand how hard we have to work. So far I've been pleased."

Other returners from last year's varsity team are seniors Kyland Gross, who just wrapped up a sensational football season, and Cord Sheehy, both of whom are expected to have more expanded roles this year.

The Bulldogs will have an abundance of players moving up from a 17-2 junior varsity team led by 6-1 senior Jeterrence Harris, 6-3 junior Reese Porter, who is the tallest member of the team, and 6-1 junior Jairius Ray, one of the most athletic players on the team.

Zach Jackson, a smooth 6-1 sophomore, will also figure prominently into the lineup.

"This team has a good mix," Holifield said. "I think we have good depth and I think we'll be able to put pressure on the basketball with the people we have in place. I think we shoot the basketball pretty well. It's a team that can score some points. We have a lot of young guys coming up. We have a good blend of players returning and guys coming up from our J.V."

Filling out the varsity roster are juniors Chris Scott (6-1), Marquese Parks (5-10), Zach Harrison (6-0), Steven Baker (6-2), Dantrell Brown (5-11) and Tyler Anderson, a strong and athletic 6-2 senior, who is out for the team for the first time since his freshman year.

"We're not very big, so rebounding is a major emphasis," Holifield said. "We're going to be undersized in a lot of games. We've got to really understand that and work hard to try to handle that situation. The old saying, 'the team that controls the boards, controls the games.' We've got to be able to put ourselves in a position to control the boards even though we're extremely small. We could have some ups and downs early, but I think we have a chance to have a good team as the season goes on."

Following the Blytheville game on Tuesday, the Bulldogs will have its first home game on Friday against Dexter and then will be back on the road in the Hall of Fame Shootout in Rector, Ark., on Saturday against the host school.

"We have some difficult games and a tough schedule that will test us and hopefully get us prepared for the district tournament, and that's our ultimate goal, to be playing as well as we can at that time," Holifield said. "I hope we can put everything together to be in a position to succeed."