(Photo by Chris Pobst, Staff)
SIKESTON -- In the past few years, one aspect that made the Sikeston Bulldogs a difficult team to beat was that you never knew who was going to beat you.
On Friday night it was Reese Porter's time to shine in the Bulldogs' 59-39 victory over SEMO Conference and district foe Notre Dame at the Sikeston Field House.
The 6-foot-3 junior scored a varsity career-high 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and had four steals.
His previous high game was 10 points on two occasions this season, but the Bulldogs needed every bit of his scoring on Friday against a young, energetic and upset-minded Notre Dame squad.
"I don't really try to be the scorer," Porter said. "I just want to be the overall guy. The rebounder and defender and things like that. I just wanted to help my team and I did what I had to do."
Porter was able to establish low position as Notre Dame's defense focused on pressuring the ball on the perimeter and surrounding J.T. Jones, the Bulldogs' leading scorer so far this season.
Jones and point guard Vashawn Ruffin were able to dump passes into Porter, who converted 10 of 11 shots and made 3 of 4 free throws.
"I knew they were going to focus on J.T.," Porter said. "J.T. passed the ball to me in high-low situations and Vashawn and the guards found me. J.T. was getting double-teamed and I just filled my role. I couldn't have done it without my team's unselfishness."
Sikeston (8-0) only trailed once in the game in the very early going, but the Bulldogs took control when Ruffin broke a tie game with a 3-pointer and Porter hit a free throw to lead 10-6 after one quarter.
The Bulldogs began to pull away in the second quarter behind Jones' 10 points, leading by as much as 13 points before settling for a 28-17 halftime lead.
Sikeston had out-rebounded Notre Dame 18-4 in the first half, but coach Gregg Holifield was still leery after witnessing Notre Dame come from behind and defeat Jackson and New Madrid County Central from even larger deficits.
"Typical Sikeston-Notre Dame game -- it's just a battle to the end," Holifield said. "They never go away. They have great shooters on the floor. We know how difficult they are to go against. Fortunately we were able to build a lead."
The Bulldogs made sure Notre Dame (2-4) wouldn't pull off another comeback as they out-scored them 17-10 in the third quarter to lead 45-27 heading into the fourth.
In the third, Notre Dame got as close as 10 points following a Quinn Poythress 3-pointer with 3:30 remaining, but Sikeston responded with a baseline jumper by Zach Jackson and consecutive old-fashioned 3-point plays by Jairius Ray to open up the lead at 41-24 with 2:14 left.
Kyland Gross closed the quarter with a buzzer-beating layup following a steal and a pass ahead from Jones.
It was one of 23 turnovers by Notre Dame.
"It's a learning experience," Notre Dame coach Kevin Roberts said. "We're not bad at all. We're going to get better and better. If we can get to that point where we can execute every possession, defensively and offensively, we'll be alright."
Sikeston held its biggest lead at 23 points in the fourth quarter. Notre Dame got no closer than 17.
After Porter's big game, Jones followed up with 10 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Ruffin added eight points and nine assists.
Jackson matched his season-high with eight points off the bench.
"When you focus so much on other guys, it's those role players that step up and hurt you," Roberts said. "They're a good team. They're well-coached. They've got a lot of weapons out there. The big guys beat us tonight. We wanted to focus on stopping the guards and penetration, but they got by us and once they get to that second level of defense, we're in trouble."
The Bulldogs completely dominated the boards, out-rebounding Notre Dame 35-12.
Sikeston had 18 assists compared to 15 turnovers.
Sikeston was just 2 for 15 (13 percent) from 3-point range and were 26 for 53 (49 percent) overall from the field.
Notre Dame only had five two-point field goals, but they buried 7 of 18 (39 percent) from 3-point range.
"I thought Sikeston really did a good job defensively taking us out of what we wanted to do, but you could see at times when we executed what we wanted to do, we got layups and wide open 3s," Roberts said. "We just threw it away three times under our own basket that led to points. It's just little mistakes like that. If we just clean that up we're right there. But they force you into that."
Notre Dame was led by Jordan Barber's nine points.
"I think coach Roberts does an outstanding job of preparing them, especially defensively," Holifield said. "Those guys always play us tough."
Sikeston will head into Christmas break undefeated for the second time in three years. They will next compete in the St. Dominic Christmas Tournament starting Dec. 26.
"It's a good start for us but we've still got a lot to work on," Holifield said. "The kids just need to keep working hard and improving."
Notre Dame will travel to Charleston on Tuesday and will return home to play Kennett on Friday.
"We lost by 20, but am I walking away with my head down? No," Roberts said. "There's some good things that came out of this. We've got a young bunch and this is the sixth game of the year for us. These are still sophomores out there and a couple juniors. We're going to take a lot of confidence out of this."
The Sikeston J.V. team fell to 5-2 on the season with a 67-49 loss to Notre Dame (8-0).
The Bulldogs led 14-10 after one quarter but fell behind 31-25 by halftime. Notre Dame steadily pulled away from there for the victory.
Sikeston was led by Chris Scott's 15 points, all coming on 5 of 7 3-point shooting. He also had five steals. Freshman Dominique Dyes added six points and five assists off the bench.
Notre Dame was led by Derek Hulshof's 17 points.
NOTRE DAME (39) -- Jordan Barber 9, Grant Ressel 8, Quinn Poythress 8, Cody DeBrock, Jordan Williamson 6, Trent Schumer 2. FG 5, FT 8-13, F 15. (3-pointers: Poythress 2, Williamson 2, Ressel 2, DeBrock 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (59) -- Reese Porter 23, J.T. Jones 10, Vashawn Ruffin 8, Zach Jackson 8, Jairius Ray 6, Kyland Gross 2, Jeterrence Harris 2. FG 24, FT 5-12, F 14. (3-pointers: Ruffin 2. Fouled out: none).
NOTRE DAME (67) -- Derek Hulshof 17, Nick Bradshaw 12, Chase Urhahn 9, Brendan Boswell 6, Chase Sweet 6, Bobby Jansen 4, Logan Heisserer 4, Thomas Himmelberg 3, Hunter Eftink 2, Dean Crippen 2, John Stroup 2. FG 16, FT 17-28, F 11. (3-pointers: Sweet 2, Himmelberg 1, Urhahn 1, Boswell 1, Heisserer 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (49) -- Chris Scott 15, Dominique Dyes 6, Dantrell Brown 6, Zach Harrison 6, Marquese Parks 5, Juwon Kimble 4, Luke Williams 3, Earnest Fobbs 2, Deterio Newman 1, Ja'lon Marr 1. FG 11, FT 6-13, F 21. (3-pointers: Scott 5, Parks 1, Brown 1. Fouled out: none).