Sikeston advances to title game with 72-63 win
O’FALLON, Mo. – The Sikeston Bulldogs advanced to the championship game of the 58th Annual Fort Zumwalt North Tournament with a hard-fought 72-63 win over Wentzville Holt on Friday night.
The second-seeded Bulldogs advance to the championship game of the tournament on Saturday, where they will take on top-seeded Columbia Rock Bridge, who is the defending Class 5 state champions. Tip-off is at 3:30 p.m.
Sikeston will be gunning for its sixth straight championship in the tournament.
Against third-seeded Holt, Sikeston led by as much as 54-40 late in the third quarter, but the Indians put together a rally in the fourth quarter and eventually trimmed the Bulldog lead to 64-61 with 2:33 left.
However, Sikeston was able to seal the game from the free-throw line, hitting 10 of 12 from the charity stripe to close out the contest.
“I thought we came out and played well against a good team,” Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. “We did a lot of good things. Our guys clutched up. We didn’t shoot free throws well in the first half, but we became very clutch from the line at the end of the game.”
Sikeston’s pressure defense took a toll on the Indians, as it forced 22 turnovers. The Bulldogs needed the edge in the first half as they were cold from the field and also from the free-throw line, where the team shot just 3 of 12.
“Against a team like Sikeston, your margin of error is pretty small, and you can’t afford to give them extra outs or let them off the hook, and we did,” Holt coach Charles Arnold said. “They’re a very good ballclub. Coach Holifield does a great job. It’s one of the best programs in the state, so we knew that we had a tough battle ahead of us.”
Deadlocked at 22-apiece after one-quarter of play, Sikeston was able to push ahead to a 36-29 lead by halftime after a Leroy Atkins 3-pointer.
Sikeston (9-5) controlled the third quarter and appeared poised to put the game away, leading by double-digits throughout the period and extending to 54-40 lead after an Atkins 3-pointer. The Indians, though, answered with a Landon Engelage 3-pointer to trim the lead to 54-43.
Poor shooting missed scoring opportunities inside, and turnovers allowed the Indians to creep back into the game.
“They got very aggressive offensively, and we got into some foul trouble, and we became a little hesitant,” Holifield said. “We missed about three or four shots underneath that we should have scored and got careless with the basketball.”
Sikeston was led in scoring by a pair of juniors – Atkins scored 20 points with six rebounds; Lontas McClinton scored 18 points with seven rebounds.
Senior guard Payton Howard had 10 points, nine assists, and three steals.
Clark Steward had 10 points with 14 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks. Senior guard Colby Henson drilled three 3-pointers for nine points.
Holifield also noted the defense and rebounding of senior guard Kenyon Smith, who grabbed five of his six rebounds on the offensive end.
HOLT (63) – Emmanuel McLemore 14, Cade Ellegood 13, Jaylon Ashford 12, Zarius Looney 11, Francis Verlarde 5, Landon Engelage 3, Danjiel Crump 2. FG 24, FT 9-18, F 22. (3-pointers: Ellegood 3, Engelage 1, Looney 1. Fouled out: Ellegood).
SIKESTON (72) – Leroy Atkins 20, Lontas McClinton 18, Payton Howard 10, Clark Steward 10, Colby Henson 9, Nick Harrison 4, Kenyon Smith 1. FG 25, FT 14-26, F 19. (3-pointers: Atkins 3, Henson 3, McClinton 2. Fouled out: none).
The Sikeston JV team also advanced to the championship game of their respective tournament with a 63-47 win over Troy.
Johnny Adams and Creighton Sarakas each had 12 points, while Cleo Taylor had 10 points and seven rebounds.
TROY (47) – Wegizyn 13, Eddinger 10, Moore 4, Zeckel 10, Creech 8. FG 19, FT 2-10, F 16. (3-pointers: Eddinger 2, Moore 1, Zeckel 2. Fouled out: Aholt).
SIKESTON (63) – Cleo Taylor 10, Jaden Blackmon 7, Adrian Smith 4, Brendan Hamilton 5, Creighton Sarakas 12, Johnny Adams 12, Tyron Owens 4, Tyler Owens 5, Dylon Turner 4. FG 23, FT 8-12, F 15. (3-pointers: Sarakas 2, Adams 2. Fouled out: none).