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Bulldogs and Bluejays set to meet at Show Me Center for first time

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

In this file photo, the Sikeston Bums crowd section throws spirit fingers towards Charleston's Michael Hull as he waits to inbound the ball during the SEMO Conference Championship game at the Sikeston Field House Dec. 7, 2012. Sikeston and Charleston will play their regularly scheduled game on Thursday dubbed "They Rivalry" at the Show Me Center in Cape Girardeau. Chris Pobst, Staff
CAPE GIRARDEAU -- A win by either team could do wonders for a potential playoff run.

It could also settle any score on who is the undisputed king of southeast Missouri.

Their second meeting of this season will be nothing like their hundreds before. For the first time in their illustrious feud, Sikeston and Charleston will take their hatred to the biggest stage southeast Missouri has to offer.

On Thursday, the Bulldogs and Bluejays will play at the Show Me Center that has been dubbed "The Rivalry".

"It's going to be exciting for our players and our fans. It's going to be a playoff-type atmosphere." Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield said. "Playing in the Show Me Center will, hopefully, help us down the road. It's definitely going to be a great experience for our players and fans."

Charleston and Sikeston have shared a plethora of battles over the years. It seems no matter what product is put on the floor by both teams, an exciting finish is sure to be in store.

"We need a good game and I think Sikeston is going to be a great game for us at this point of the season," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said. "We're close to the post season and it will be a more challenging game, seeing that we already lost to them earlier this season."

Since Sikeston head coach Gregg Holifield took over the Bulldogs during the 98-99 season, Charleston has held a commanding 15-7 lead in the series history. Charleston is the only southeast Missouri team that Holifield has a losing record against.

However, of the last eight, Holifield has scratched out six wins completing one of the more dominant runs Sikeston basketball has enjoyed over their rival in recent years.

Moving this game, which was originally scheduled for Jan. 4 at Charleston High School, to the Show Me Center has heightened the anticipation and the bragging right stakes.

Sikeston has played a total of three games on the campus of Southeast Missouri State, losing two of the three, but winning, arguably, one of the most historic games this region has ever seen in 2009 against the Scott County Central Braves, 86-85.

Charleston has made a Christmas-time living on the Show Me Center floor being part of the seMissourian Christmas tournament and dominating with 17 tournament wins -- the most in tournament history.

After hearing the game was moved, there was mixed reaction from Bluejay fans about losing home-court advantage.

The hardwood underneath their feet doesn't matter to Farmer. Nor has it ever.

"We don't care," Farmer said. "Any place we play is our home. We, more or less, focus on our game. We don't get into where we play. That's not a big thing to us."

The move to the Show Me Center has been worked out to a two-year deal, as known to the Standard Democrat. Next season's regular season match-up, originally pegged to be at the Sikeston Field House, will be played at the Show Me Center as well.

The Bulldogs (17-1), who have sat atop the MBCA/MoSports.com basketball poll at No. 1 all season long, have one win over Charleston they can hang over their head already this season.

During the SEMO Conference tournament, Sikeston topped Class 2's No. 2 ranked team 71-61 in yet another thriller.

"We were able to get the ball in the position to score down low. That has to be a point of emphasis for us," Holifield said.

J.T. Jones, Sikeston's leading scorer and rebounder at 18.4 points and 10 rebounds a clip, led the Bulldogs with 21 points. He also pulled down eight rebounds -- an area where Farmer believes was Sikeston's key to winning the conference title for the fourth time in the last five years.

Sikeston out-rebounded the Bluejays 36-26.

"I thought they killed us on the boards," Farmer said. "We're going to have to rebound well. And after the Maplewood game, stopping J.T. -- I don't know if that's possible. We're going to have to try and stop him. I thought he went wild last time and did anything he wanted to do."

Sikeston's Vashawn Ruffin was as good as he's ever been in that game, according to Holifield. Ruffin finished with 17 points, six rebounds and a career-high 12 assists.

In that same game, Michael Hull paced the Bluejays with 18 points. Darrion Carter added 11 while Sumner Foster scored 10.

All-state point guard Ryan Parham had an off night being held to eight points and a slew of uncharacteristic turnovers in crucial situations. Parham, who averages 9.6 points and 5.9 assists per game, was also hampered by cramping late in the game.

"He didn't play very well -- Ryan knows I expect a lot more out of him," Farmer said after the loss in December. "I don't think my veteran players played very well tonight. It's the kids that have been there before, and they didn't play very well."

The Bluejays were able to pull to within three points, 64-61, with 1:10 left remaining, but could not get any closer.

"We started out slow, and that could have had a lot to do with it, but we cut it to three there late and we turned our pressure up. We realized this time we're going to have to turn it up in the beginning of the game and all 32 minutes. We're going to have to play with a lot of pressure."

Parham was been nursing a hamstring injury for most of the season and has been getting healthier, according to Farmer. Although, seeing one of his best defenders at 100 percent may be unlikely.

"He's getting better and his game is better, but I don't think he's at full strength," said Farmer. "Since then, we've had other kids step it up and we have about eight kids playing well. I think we're a different team than when we played them the first time."

On top of their loss to Sikeston, Charleston has lost one other against Dyer County, Tenn., during the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest, 93-76. The Bluejays (19-2) were tied with Dyer County going into the fourth quarter at 51-all. With Tennessee-bound Robert Hubbs leading the way, Dyer County outscored the Bluejays 32-15 for a 93-76 win.

"Even against Dyer County, games like that really help you," Farmer said. "That better competition keeps you playing at a certain level. We've seen a little bit of everything and we're going to find out how much that's helped us out."

Sikeston's one loss came at the hands of Maplewood-Richmond Heights, 70-66.

The talk following the Bulldogs only loss so far this season was how the Blue Devils, who are coached by former Bluejay Corey Frazier, were able to eliminate Ruffin. Maplewood's game-plan was to put its best defender on Ruffin and then hounded him with double-teams throughout the game.

That gave the equation on how to topple the Bulldogs. But to Farmer, it told him just how deep and dangerous Sikeston is.

"I knew what coach Frazier's plan was to try to stop Ruffin," Farmer said. "You're going to have to guard Ruffin, but I think there's more to this Sikeston team. That game, more than anything, probably showed Gregg (Holifield) about his team. He had other guys that stepped it up. It was a good gameplan, but I think Maplewood played great.

"It showed me, more than anything, that Sikeston has a very good team more than the loss."

Jones led the Bulldogs against Maplewood with 24 points, Markeith Bratcher scored 16, Reese Porter added 13 while Ruffin was limited to two.

"I know that Vashawn has really adjusted and adapted well to the point guard position. He's been extremely unselfish," said Holifield. "We've got to be able to hit the open man and take advantage of situations where we may have two on one's or three on two's.

"That was a big game for us," Holifield added about their loss against Maplewood. "Maplewood had a lot more size, which caused us problems inside. Both (Charleston and Maplewood) play similar defense and we've got to get the ball in position to score. Hopefully, we'll execute and be able to do that."

Charleston's leading scorer, Hull, puts in 17.6 points per game. Carter scores 13.6 while Foster adds 11.3.

"We've got to be able to contain their shooters and try to eliminate dribble penetration," Holifield said about keys to winning "The Rivalry". "We've got to be able to, in my opinion always, to control the boards. The team that usually leads in rebounds wins the game. They attack the offensive glass better than any team we've played all year."

The Bluejays and Bulldogs are very similar when it comes to team stats.

Charleston scores 79.2 a game while Sikeston sits at 73.4. Sikeston leads in rebounding at 37.6 while Charleston pulls down 32.4.

Both the Sikeston and Charleston junior varsity teams will start Thursday at 6 p.m. "The Rivalry" will begin immediately after.

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