SIKESTON, Mo. -- By posting a 2-0 record in their pool, the Sikeston Bulldogs advanced to the championship game of their own Sikeston Invitational Tournament for the first time since 1998, head coach Gregg Holifield's first year at the helm.
The Bulldogs, who defeated Osceola (Ark.) 66-52 while Blytheville (Ark.), defeated Charleston 47-44 in the other game Thursday night. Sikeston and Blytheville will meet for the championship tonight at 8:30 p.m.
Blytheville hasn't won the Sikeston tournament since beating Sikeston in 1998.
Charleston will play New Madrid County Central at 7 p.m. in the third place game while Osceola will take on the Sikeston junior varsity in the fifth place game at 5:30.
Sikeston (2-2) never trailed against the Seminoles (2-3) as they quickly built a substantial lead with a 24-15 advantage at the end of the first quarter. The Bulldogs extended the lead to 36-23 at halftime and were never seriously threatened in the second half.
"We had some moments tonight where we played really well," said Holifield. "We got a big enough lead to where we got everybody an opportunity to play. The players are working hard. As you can see we've got many things to work on, but the effort's good and they're really trying. If they continue that then good things will happen."
Sikeston led by as much as 22 points in the third quarter when both coaches emptied their benches for the rest of the way. The Bulldogs led 57-37 at the end of the third and maintained a sizable lead through the fourth. Osceola never got closer than the final margin.
The Bulldogs controlled the boards on the night despite a distinct size disadvantage, grabbing 33 total rebounds, including 10 from 5-11 forward Drew Cole.
Sikeston also made a season-high seven 3-pointers, led by Kash Bratcher's four from beyond the arc. His 12 points were second only to Rod Moore's 13 points, 10 of which came in the third quarter.
Osceola was led by 6-foot-6 junior Lonnie Dabney with 11 points. The Seminoles had 13 players reach the scoring column but no other player reached double figures.
So now the Bulldogs will play the Blytheville Chickasaws, a team that defeated them 59-37 in Sikeston's season-opener and owns five straight victories dating back to 2001-2002. Sikeston hasn't won the Sikeston Invitational since 1994.
Blytheville 47, Charleston 44
Blytheville (5-0) only trailed at 1-0 as they took the lead from there and withstood a late Charleston rally in the fourth quarter to advance to the championship game.
The Bluejays, the defending tournament champions, overcame a 13-point first-half deficit and got as close as one point in the fourth quarter but never could take the lead.
Blytheville led 10-5 after one quarter and extended the lead to 23-10 in the second quarter, but the lead slowly started slipping away when star forward John Fowler went to the bench with his third foul.
The Bluejays responded with a 6-0 run in the final minute of the half to cut the lead to 23-16. Not even a minute into the third quarter, Fowler picked up his fourth foul, which put him back on the bench until five minutes remained in the game.
Charleston (2-4) took full advantage of his absence as they trimmed the lead to 33-29 on a Shawn Sherrell 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter. Another Sherrell 3-pointer to start the fourth cut the lead to 33-32 but the Bluejays wouldn't get any closer.
Blytheville built the lead back up to seven points before Charleston made one final push. Ashton Farmer had a pair of inside buckets in the final 30 seconds, one of which cut the lead to 46-44. Fowler made 1-of-2 free throws with six seconds remaining but a potential game-tying 3-pointer by Sherrell was an air-ball as time expired.
Fowler finished with a team-high 18 points. Six-foot-four junior Chris Echols followed up with 10 points. Sherrell finished with 15 points for the Bluejays.
Blytheville was just 7-of-16 from the free throw line but Charleston was even worse, making 10-of-26. Farmer finished with 18 points but was just 6-of-15 from the line.
Blytheville head coach David Hixson said his post players had no answer for the 6-foot-7 Farmer.
"He's a player, he's physical and he understands the game," said Hixson. 'If you're not playing in great position on him, then he's going to take advantage of it. I had a kid that's very inexperienced down there on him and he was able to do hurt us and he was smart enough to draw fouls."
Sikeston vs Osceola
OSCEOLA (52) -- Lonnie Dabney 11, Michael Davis 6, Cameron Jones 5, Larry Turner 5, Darrius Harris 4, Gary Stewart 4, Zach Walls 3, Jonathan Goodlow 2, Adrian Speed 2, Andrew Goodson 2, Adam Holthouse 2, Todd Richaman 2. FG 18, FT 7-16, F 18. (3-pointers: Walls 1, Jones 1, Turner 1. Fouled out: none).
SIKESTON (66) ˜ Rod Moore 13, Kash Bratcher 12, Julian Beard 9, Josh Alvarado 9, Drew Cole 7, Joel Nabors 5, Tyler Woodson 4, Matt Limbaugh 4, Robbie Howard 3. FG 17, FT 11-21, F 17. (3-pointers: Bratcher 4, Beard 1, Alvarado 1, Howard 1. Fouled out: none).
Blytheville vs Charleston
BLYTHEVILLE (47) -- John Fowler 18, Chris Echols 10, Cal Rose 7, Travis Perdue 6, Chris Metcalf 2, Chris Smith 2, Roosevelt Jackson 2. FG 17, FT 7-16, F 21. (3-pointers: Rose 1, Fowler 1. Fouled out: none).
CHARLESTON (44) -- Ashton Farmer 18, Shawn Sherrell 15, Justin Clark 6, Josh Thompson 2, Jamarcus Williams 2, Tavis Hamilton 1. FG 11, FT 10-26, F 18. (3-pointers: Sherrell 2, Clark 2. Fouled out: none).