Sikeston falls in championship game of Fort Zumwalt North Tournament

O’FALLON, Mo. – The Sikeston Bulldogs have reached three tournament finals this season, but have not been able to close the deal in the championship game.

That trend continued on Saturday evening as the Bulldogs fell to Columbia Rock Bridge 67-56 in the final of the 58th Annual Fort Zumwalt North Tournament.

Top-seeded Rock Bridge, the defending Class 5 state champions, led throughout most of the contest and held a 50-45 lead with four minutes remaining, but the Bruins went on a 9-0 run to extend the advantage to 59-45. Second-seeded Sikeston could not overcome the deficit.

The loss snapped a streak of five-straight Ft. Zumwalt North tourney championships for the Bulldogs.

“I thought we played well at times,” Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. “We did a great job of making it a competitive game. We were able to cut it to five with four minutes; we didn’t have enough to get over the hump.”

The Bruins never trailed in the game. The Bulldogs fell behind 17-11 after one quarter, but they managed to tie the game in the second quarter on a Payton Howard jumper to make it 19-19, but the Bruins pulled ahead to hold a 30-26 lead at the half.

Sikeston’s Leroy Atkins hit a 3-pointer to open the third quarter, trimming Rock Bridge’s lead to 30-29, but the Bruins responded with a 10-0 run.

The Bruins carried a 50-39 lead into the fourth quarter, where Rock Bridge (14-3) led by as many as 14. The Bulldogs, though, scored six straight points on an Atkins 3 and a conventional 3-point play by Lontas McClinton.

The Bruins, led by Hall of Fame coach Jim Scanlon, called timeout to regroup his team. Cold shooting combined with Rock Bridge’s tough inside game propelled the Bruins to a 59-45 lead that sealed the game.

“It was a good game,” Scanlon said. “We had a lead in the fourth quarter, and they came back, which is typical of us. I told the kids ‘it’s anybody’s game, and they’re tougher than you right now.’ But we were able to get a few baskets to solidify the lead. Sikeston is a good team. They play defense, and they’ve got shooters, and they play so hard. I love how they play.”

Rock Bridge junior Xavier Sykes led the Bruins with 18 points, scoring 13 in the second half. Sykes is the son of former Portageville basketball great Antonio Sykes, who won three state championships in the mid-1990s.

“I think he’s a great guard,” Holifield said. “He’s very difficult to keep out of the lane. He reminds me so much of his dad, who I coached against many years ago at Portageville.”

Cooper Deneke, a 6-6 senior for Rock Bridge, followed up with 15 points.

Sikeston (9-6) was led by Atkins with 19 points, hitting 5 of 11 from 3-point range. Howard scored 13 points with eight rebounds, six assists, and three steals.

Both Atkins and Howard earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Atkins averaged a team-best 21 points per game in the tournament.

Henson hit 4 of 5 from 3-point range to finish with 12 points. Clark Steward had six rebounds, seven assists, and three steals.

“It’s the first time I’ve played Sikeston, and I’ve been coaching 35 years, I think,” Scanlon said. “I’ve always heard about them, and I know they’ve won state titles, and they’re an awful good program and well-coached. It was good to play them, and it’s good to play teams you never see. It wouldn’t have been so good if we hadn’t won.”

Sikeston will play at Dexter on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in a SEMO Conference matchup.

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SIKESTON (56) – Leroy Atkins 19, Payton Howard 13, Colby Henson 12, Lontas McClinton 7, Nick Harrison 4, Kenyon Smith 2, Clark Steward 1. FG 21, FT 4-5, F 9. (3-pointers: Atkins 5, Henson 4, Howard 1. Fouled out: none).

ROCK BRIDGE (67) – Xavier Sykes 18, Cooper Deneke 15, Charles Wilson 14, Brant Bowers 8, Jacob Ungles 4, Hudson Dercher 3, Evan Bentiganan 3, Grant Hajicek 2. FG 28, FT 6-9, F 11. (3-pointers: Bowers 2, Bentiganan 1, Sykes 1, Dercher 1. Fouled out: none).

Junior varsity

The Sikeston JV team lost to Rock Bridge 56-38 in the championship game of the junior varsity tournament at Ft. Zumwalt North.

Johnny Adams led Sikeston (9-4) with eight points.

Cleo Taylor had six points and eight rebounds. Brendan Hamilton had seven rebounds.

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SIKESTON (38) – Cleo Taylor 6, Jaden Blackmon 2, Dylon Turner 2, Brendan Hamilton 4, Creighton Sarakas 3, Johnny Adams 8, Tyron Owens 5, Tyler  Owens 2, Carson Beaird 4. FG 14, FT 7-13, F 18. (3-pointers: Tyron Owens 1, Adams 2. Fouled out: none).

ROCK BRIDGE (56) – Bowers 7, Davis 7, Linnemeyer 17, Dent 10, Norris 8, Hibdon 2, Collins 1, Hummel 4. FG 18, FT 10-14, F 14. (3-pointers: Bowers 1, Davis 1, Linnemeyer 3, Norris 1. Fouled out: Hibdon).

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