(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
RECTOR, Ark. -- For the second-straight year, the Sikeston Bulldogs put on a show during the Rector High School Hall of Fame Classic on Saturday.
In last year's event, the Bulldogs scored a season-high in points in a 94-63 victory over Valley View, Ark. On Saturday, the Bulldogs rolled past the host school, 84-46, for the team's third straight blowout victory to start the season.
"It's a great facility and it's really put on well," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said about the event. "We've really enjoyed the two years we've been here."
Holifield had a lot to like about his team's performance too.
After a slow start, in which Rector led 9-6 after a basket by Mitchell Weber, the Bulldogs closed out the first quarter with a 10-0 run to lead 16-9.
The Bulldogs (3-0) dominated from there, scoring 29 points in both the second and third quarters to blow the game open.
They did it with their trademark full-court press and pressure defense in the half-court.
"We don't see relentless pressure like that," Rector coach Matt Mills said. "We might see something like that once or twice a year. You just can't prepare for something like that. About halfway through the second quarter I looked at us and we were just gassed. I knew we were in trouble. But that's what Sikeston does to you. They just swarm you, swarm you and swarm you. They keep fresh bodies on the floor. They just basically wear you down."
The Cougars (9-4) had no answer for Sikeston's offense either, in particular, 6-foot-3 junior J.T. Jones, who tallied a career-high 28 points with six rebounds. He was 11-of-14 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
"He's working and he's getting great position and our guards are doing a great job of finding him," Holifield said of Jones. "It's a total team effort. I'm just pleased with how unselfish we were tonight."
Jones had 20 points by halftime as the Bulldogs opened up a 45-24 lead and had forced 12 Rector turnovers. Most of the turnovers led to easy layups for the Bulldogs.
"They just trap every pass," Mills said of Sikeston's defense. "When a team does that you basically can't run anything. We didn't run a single set until the second half. If we tried to get into a set I don't know if we could make the first pass, because they're just constantly trapping. Sikeston dictates everything. They dictate what the offense does. They're better than any team we've ever played."
Sikeston extended the lead to 74-42 entering the fourth quarter to enforce the mercy clock.
The Bulldogs had 17 steals in the game. They were 7 of 24 from 3-point range and 31 of 66 (47 percent) from the field overall.
Senior point guard Vashawn Ruffin continued his solid play in his new position, scoring 16 points with six assists. Junior forward Reese Porter had 10 points with eight rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive end.
Senior guard Kyland Gross added 10 points with five steals.
"I thought we came out and really had a great second quarter and were able to build a lead," Holifield said. "We did some good things. I thought we played well as a team offensively and defensively and I was pleased with our effort. We were able to put pressure on the ball which allowed us to create turnovers and get points off turnovers. That's exactly how we play."
Rector was led in scoring by Dillon Shelton with 14 points.
"They've got a quality team," Holifield said of Rector. "They got beat last year in the state semifinals on a last second shot and won 25 games and they've got most of those kids back. They're going to have a great team and a great year this year. But tonight we were able to do some things and we got the pace to our liking."
The Bulldogs, seeded second, will open play in the SEMO Conference Tournament tonight at 7 p.m. at the Sikeston Field House against No. 6 seed Poplar Bluff.
SIKESTON (84) -- J.T. Jones 28, Vashawn Ruffin 16, Reese Porter 10, Kyland Gross 10, Jeterrence Harris 5, Markeith Bratcher 3, Dantrell Brown 3, Chris Scott 3, Jairius Ray 2, Zach Jackson 2, Marquise Parks 2. FG 23, FT 14-18, F 17. (3-pointers: Jones 3, Ruffin 2, Scott 1, Gross 1, Bratcher 1. Fouled out: none).
RECTOR (46) -- Dillon Shelton 14, Mitchell Weber 9, Reed Weber 9, Daniel White 7, Alec Scott 4, Tyler Carter 2, Devin Childress 1. FG 6, FT 13-21, F 14. (3-pointers: Weber 3, White 2, Shelton 2. Fouled out: none).