(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Just two games into the season, the Sikeston Bulldogs have shown why coaches around the state have them pegged as one of the favorites in Class 4 this year.
In the season opener on Tuesday against Blytheville, a quick start led to an insurmountable lead in a blowout victory against the Chickasaws.
The Bulldogs did it again on Friday night in their home opener at the Field House, racing out to a 21-2 first quarter lead and cruising the rest of the way to a comfortable 55-23 victory over the Dexter Bearcats in a SEMO Conference matchup.
Sikeston forced nine Bearcat turnovers in the first quarter alone to set the tone for the rest of the game as they had built a 32-8 lead midway through the second quarter.
"I thought we came out and really played well in the first quarter. We established a lead and did a lot of good things early," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "You can tell it's early and there's a lot of things we've got to work to get better at."
Despite graduating four starters from last year's 23-5 state quarterfinal team, the Bulldogs entered this season with high expectations, being ranked No. 1 in the MBCA/Mosports.com preseason poll.
While Sikeston (2-0) was in complete control of the game and never in any danger of losing the lead, there were moments of sloppy play and inexperienced mistakes, indicating that the Bulldogs still have some early-season kinks to work out.
"We did a lot of standing," Holifield said. "You have to give Dexter some credit for that, they did a good job of trying to control the tempo and we allowed it to happen at times."
Dexter came out with a game plan of being patient and trying to dictate a slower tempo, but Sikeston's fast start negated the strategy.
The Bulldogs raced out to an 11-0 lead before the Bearcats' Brad Potts put the visitors on the scoreboard with a short bank-shot.
Sikeston still finished the quarter with a 10-0 run to lead 21-2 after the first. The Bulldogs hit all three of their 3-pointers in the first quarter.
"An inexperienced team coming in against arguably the best Class 4 team in the state in their home gym," Dexter coach Rob Nichols said. "It's a good environment. We were a little intimidated there at the start."
Sikeston continued the onslaught in the second quarter, eventually settling for a 36-14 lead by the half.
Even after the Bulldogs had established the big lead, the Bearcats continued to use long, drawn out possessions to work for a clear shot.
"We just wanted to try to shorten the game a little bit," Nichols said. "We can't hold the ball against them, a good defensive team like that with as inexperienced as we are. But we wanted to try to be really patient on offense and just take what they gave us."
Sikeston put the game away for good in the third quarter with a 17-4 run to take a 53-18 lead into the fourth quarter.
Returning all-state guard Vashawn Ruffin only scored two points, but in his new role as point guard he dished out nine assists and had just one turnover.
"He can score in bunches, but he's a great passer and I thought he did a good job of distributing the basketball," Holifield said of Ruffin. "We have to play as a team and I think our players are really understanding that and trying to get better in that direction."
The Bulldogs were led in scoring by junior forward J.T. Jones with 18 points and nine rebounds. Junior Reese Porter added 10 points, seven rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Dexter (0-2), which has three starters out in the early part of the season with injuries, was led by Potts' seven points.
The Sikeston J.V. team improved to 4-1 on the season with a 71-29 victory over Dexter.
The Bulldogs led 24-6 after one quarter and 43-12 by halftime.
Sikeston had 13 different players reach the scoring column led by Zach Harrison's 13 points. Freshman Jaylen Mallory added 11 points and four steals. Chris Scott had 10 points
Dexter was led by Blake Horton's nine points.
DEXTER (23) -- Brad Potts 7, D.J. Dowdy 4, Cole Renken 4, Ryan Joyner 3, Austen Richardson 3, Nick Noble 2. FG 7, FT 9-14, F 10. (3-pointers: none. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (55) -- J.T. Jones 18, Reese Porter 10, Zach Jackson 8, Jeterrence Harris 5, Jairius Ray 5, Markeith Bratcher 3, Kyland Gross 2, Dantrell Brown 2. FG 21, FT 4-9, F 14. (3-pointers: Jackson 1, Ray 1, Bratcher 1. Fouled out: none).
DEXTER (29) -- Blake Horton 9, Austin Chesser 7, Jacob Pedigo 6, Noah Kronk 4, Jacob Murdock 2, Cole Renken 1. FG 9, FT 5-11, F 8. (3-pointers: Chesser 1, Pedigo 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (71) -- Zach Harrison 13, Jaylen Mallory 11, Chris Scott 10, Ja'lon Marr 6, Dominique Dyes 6, Blake Below 5, Deterio Newman 4, Dantrell Brown 4, Steven Baker 4, Earnest Fobbs 2, Marquese Parks 2, Juwon Kimble 2, Luke Williams 2. FG 24, FT 8-10, F 11. (3-pointers: Scott 2, Below 1, Mallory 1, Harrison 1. Fouled out: none).