Sikeston blows through Blue Knights in Union tourney opener

UNION, Mo. – Finding opponents in southeast Missouri has become a daunting task for the Sikeston Bulldogs basketball team.

It has forced Sikeston to fill the schedule with long trips towards the St. Louis area. This is nothing new for the Bulldogs, but Tuesday marked the first time Sikeston has ever made the three-hour trek to Union High School in their 61st Annual Invitational Tournament.

Sikeston received the No. 2 seed and responded after the long drive by defeating the seventh-seeded Blue Knights, a home-school program out of St. Louis, 76-56.

The Bulldogs (12-4) advance to the semifinals of the tournament where they will play third-seeded Union on Friday at 7 p.m. Union defeated sixth-seeded Seckman 80-72 in its first round game.

Sikeston has won four straight and 10 of its last 12 contests.

The Blue Knights (13-9), a totally unknown opponent to the Bulldogs, presented some problems early with crisp ball movement and accurate perimeter shooting. However, Sikeston’s pressure defense eventually took its toll as they forced the Blue Knights into several turnovers that led to fast-break points.

“We came out and we were attacking the basket,” Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. “They did a good job of attacking us, but as the game went on our guys did a good job of adjusting and stopping the basketball. Early in the game they were hurting us on penetration.”

Sikeston took the quick lead at 8-3, but the Blue Knights rallied to take a 14-12 advantage midway through the first quarter.

It was all Sikeston after that.

The Bulldogs went on a 14-4 run to close the period with freshman Kobe Thomas scoring a layup after a steal just before the buzzer sounded to lead 26-16.

“Our defensive pressure picked up and we created some turnovers and got some easy buckets,” Holifield said. “Plus we did a good job of pounding that ball inside and scoring.”

Sikeston began the second quarter on an 11-1 run capped by a Chris Artis drive to the basket to lead 37-17.

The Bulldogs settled for a 43-25 lead at the half.

“We really didn’t know much about them, but we had some film and knew a bit about their personnel,” Holifield said. “I was pleased with how we dictated the tempo and pace of the game. I felt like we took them out of what they wanted to do.”

Sikeston put the game out of reach with a huge third quarter run, forcing the Blue Knights into eight turnovers in the period.

The Blue Knights started the third quarter well, trimming Sikeston’s lead to 43-29, but the Bulldogs responded with a 21-4 run to open up a 64-33 lead.

Sikeston’s reserves played out the fourth quarter, leading by as much as 71-37 early in the period, but the Blue Knights finished the game on a 19-5 run to make the score more respectable.

Sikeston junior Dontrez Williams scored all of his 24 points in the first three quarters. He also had eight rebounds, three steals and two blocked shots.

Sophomore Tristan Wiggins and Thomas each scored nine points. Thomas also had four assists. Artis and senior Quemariae Gray each scored eight points. Gray also grabbed six rebounds.

“He played great and he’s been playing very well for us,” Holifield said of Gray. “His effort has been outstanding and he has a terrific team attitude. He is improving daily.”

Michael Berry, a quick and strong senior guard, led the Blue Knights with 17 points.

“They had good players,” Holifield said. “They’re a very good offensive team. They move the ball well and their guard [Berry] is a really good guard for them and they have a really nice post player [Weston Duncan] that gave us some trouble.”

Blue Knights1691021--56

BLUE KNIGHTS (56) – Michael Berry 17, Weston Duncan 14, Kaleb Collins 12, Nathan Reed 6, Sam Schark 3, Eli Miller 2, Gabe Linneman 2. FG 24, FT 3-6, F 8. (3-pointers: Collins 2, Berry 1, Schark 1, Duncan 1. Fouled out: none).

SIKESTON (76) – Dontrez Williams 24, Tristan Wiggins 9, Kobe Thomas 9, Chris Artis 8, Quemariae Gray 8, J’kwon Applewhite 4, Lekereon McCray 4, Creighton Sarakas 3, Will Lape 3, Harrison Arndt 2, Morgan McCauley 2. FG 31, FT 8-9, F 5. (3-pointers: Williams 3, Thomas 1, Sarakas 1, Lape 1. Fouled out: none).

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