O'FALLON -- The Sikeston Bulldogs will be trying for a three-peat in the St. Dominic Christmas Tournament after defeating Timberland, 77-50, on Thursday night at St. Dominic High School.
The top-seeded Bulldogs, champions the previous two years in the tournament, drained a season-high 14 3-pointers in Thursday's semifinal win over the fifth-seeded Wolves.
The Bulldogs will play in the championship game on Saturday night at 7:30 against No. 2 seed Fort Zumwalt South, which defeated third-seeded St. Dominic, 64-52, in the other semifinal game.
"We're excited to be back in the championship game," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "Our players are really looking forward to it. We're playing a really good team so we are expecting a good game."
Against Timberland (5-5) on Thursday, the Bulldogs fell behind 4-0 to start the game, but the team went on a 17-1 run the rest of the quarter to take a 17-5 lead.
After hitting just one 3-pointer in its first round victory over Lutheran-St. Charles, the Bulldogs set the tone in the first quarter with three 3-pointers.
"Sikeston shot the ball really well," Timberland coach Kyle Deweese said. "Having limited exposure to them and based on what we had seen, I wasn't anticipating it to be quite like that. We knew it was going to be a tough matchup for us so we tried to do some different things and try to make them beat us from the outside. And they did just that."
The Bulldogs (10-0) opened up a 29-10 lead early in the second quarter after back-to-back 3-pointers by sophomore Zach Jackson.
But the Wolves went on a run as well, led by Adam Ingle, who scored 16 of his team-high 19 points in the second quarter.
The Wolves were able to cut the lead to 35-27 on an inside basket by Bobby Marco with just over two minutes remaining in the half.
Sikeston responded with a 7-0 run on a 3-pointer by J.T. Jones, an inside shot by Cord Sheehy and a steal and layup by Jackson to take a 42-27 lead into halftime.
"They're a team that can score in bunches in a hurry," Deweese said. "We battled and got that lead cut, but we had to use so much energy to get ourselves to that point, and then all of a sudden we made a couple mistakes and boom, boom, boom, they run seven off in a hurry. And it deflates you. Our kids are already tired and they're living on adrenaline, and that just sucked some of it out."
The Bulldogs blew the game open in the third quarter as they hit five more 3-pointers, including three from senior Markeith Bratcher, to take a 64-40 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs' hot shooting, combined with its relentless pressure, was just too much for the Wolves to contend with.
"Their pressure is just tremendous, in the front-court and the back-court," Deweese said. "We don't see anything like that. Nothing to that extreme. Sikeston keeps it chaotic all the time because they're just constantly hustling and scrambling around. We see nothing to that level of pressure in both the full-court and the back-court."
Timberland was able to keep the game from reaching the mercy clock level, but they never got closer than 18 points in the fourth quarter.
"I've seen them up here for three years now and I continue to be impressed that they are able to rotate 10, 11, 12 guys it seems like, and it doesn't feel like they miss a beat," Deweese said. "And that's a testament to their coach and the job that he does there. We continued to play hard, but you could see the fatigue starting to wear us down, which is exactly what Sikeston is trying to do along with the pressure."
Sikeston was 14 of 34 (41 percent) from 3-point range and recorded 20 steals against the Wolves.
"I thought we shot the ball well," Holifield said. "They were really trying to take our inside game away which left us open looks. We were fortunate to knock several 3s down."
The Bulldogs grabbed 41 rebounds against the bigger, stronger Wolves. They also had 18 assists compared to 16 turnovers.
"I thought in the second half we were really aggressive on the boards," Holifield said. "We took control of the game when we started attacking the boards. They were a very physical team and I was glad to see that we didn't back down."
Jones led the Bulldogs with 24 points, nine rebounds, five steals and five blocked shots.
Ruffin scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half. Bratcher and Jackson each added 11 points.
Reese Porter had nine rebounds and five steals. Sheehy had six rebounds and a team-high five assists.
TIMBERLAND (50) -- Adam Ingle 19, Trey Politte 8, Jack James 8, Bobby Marco 6, Kyle Stevens 3,Travis Arndt 2, Braxton Wagner 2, John Hummel 2. FG 16, FT 9-16, F 9. (3-pointers: Ingle 3. Fouled out: none)
SIKESTON (77) -- J.T. Jones 24, Vashawn Ruffin 18, Zach Jackson 11, Markeith Bratcher 11, Kyland Gross 4, Jairius Ray 3, Cord Sheehy 2, Reese Porter 2, Jeterrence Harris 2. FG 16, FT 3-11, F 18. (3-pointers: Ruffin 4, Jones 4, Bratcher 3, Jackson 3. Fouled out: none).