(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Sikeston head basketball coach Gregg Holifield is never satisfied.
Despite having just one loss this season, he continually is trying to work out any kinks the team may have with an end-game of reaching its peak level of performance by district tournament time in late February.
This week in practice, he emphasized improving his team's defense which had allowed an average of nearly 70 points in the last four games.
The extra attention paid off as the Bulldogs put together one of its most complete games of the season with an 84-41 homecoming victory against Caruthersville at the Sikeston Field House.
"I thought we came out and really set the tempo," Holifield said. "We got the basketball where we wanted it early. I thought our players did a good job of sharing the basketball offensively and we kept good pressure on the basketball on defense. I thought we played hard."
The Bulldogs held the Tigers to its lowest point total of the season. The Bulldogs did it with its trademark full-court press and trapping zone defense, forcing the Tigers to launch several 3-pointers for most of the night, only connecting on three.
"We lost a key player in Darrell Monroe and we're still trying to get it together, but Sikeston -- they're No. 1 in 4A for a reason," Caruthersville coach Tim Smith said. "Awesome stadium. Awesome crowd. Extremely good coaches. And their players play with so much heart every second of the game."
Without the presence of Monroe, the Tigers had no answer for Sikeston's J.T. Jones in the paint. The 6-foot-3 junior scored a game-high 23 points with 10 rebounds and four assists.
Alongside Jones, junior teammate Jairius Ray had his biggest game of the season, scoring 14 points with nine rebounds.
With those two inside, it opened up the outside as the Bulldogs hit nine 3-pointers in the game.
"We had some open looks and knocked them down fortunately," Holifield said. "J.T. really went to work inside and Jairius played really well. We had a good inside-outside game going and we played well together."
Sikeston (17-1) got huge production from its bench, scoring 36 points. It was something Holifield was glad to see.
"They came in and they all played hard," Holifield said. "That's a key to success, just playing hard. I was proud of those guys for the effort they had."
Caruthersville (8-9) scored the first basket, but Sikeston went on a 10-2 run to take the lead for good.
Bulldog senior guard Vashawn Ruffin hit 3-pointers on three straight trips to help extend the lead to 16-6.
The Bulldogs led 22-8 after one quarter.
Sikeston went on a 12-2 run to start the second quarter to blow the game open. They led 41-16 at the half.
The Bulldogs extended the lead to 68-30 entering the fourth quarter where the mercy clock ran the rest of the way.
"I thought we played well defensively," Holifield said. "We were aggressive and forced some turnovers. That's how we have to play the game."
Ruffin finished with 16 points, knocking down 4 of 8 from 3-point range.
Senior Jeterrence Harris added eight points and six rebounds off the bench.
Caruthersville's Jamal Johnson scored 13 of his team-high 15 points in the second half. Jeremy Grant followed up with 14 points.
CARUTHERSVILLE (41) -- Jamal Johnson 15, Jeremy Grant 14, Steve Rodgers 7, Myron Woods 4, Tyler Grissom 1. FG 14, FT 4-8, F 12. (3-pointers: Johnson 3. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (84) -- J.T. Jones 23, Vashawn Ruffin 16, Jairius Ray 14, Jeterrence Harris 8, Reese Porter 6, Markeith Bratcher 5, Zach Jackson 5, Dantrell Brown 4, Chris Scott 3, Kyland Gross 2. FG 24, FT 9-15, F 11. (3-pointers: Ruffin 4, Jackson 1, Scott 1, Jones 1, Bratcher 1. Fouled out: none).
The Sikeston J.V. team improved to 11-2 on the season with a 55-45 win over Caruthersville.
The Bulldogs led 33-15 at the half and 46-29 after three quarters.
Sikeston was led by Zach Harrison's 11 points. Dantrell Brown followed up with 10 points. Luke Williams scored eight points with nine rebounds.
CARUTHERSVILLE (45) -- Kevin Anderson 11, Tyrone Austin 10, Malik Monroe 8, Roderick Jones 6, Antonio Mackins 6, Dalton Johnson 3, Daniel Fugate 1. FG 20, FT 2-7, F 12. (3-pointers: Johnson 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (55) -- Zach Harrison 11, Dantrell Brown 10, Zach Jackson 9, Luke Williams 8, Juwon Kimble 5, Dominique Dyes 4, Blake Below 3, Earnest Fobbs 3, Marquese Parks 2. FG 17, FT 9-14, F 12. (3-pointers: Jackson 1, Below 1, Brown 1, Harrison 1. Fouled out: none).