ST. LOUIS, Mo. --In a battle of No. 1 ranked teams, Chaminade College Prep defeated the Sikeston Bulldogs 102-84 on Tuesday at Chaminade High School.
Chaminade (13-1), the defending Class 5 state champions and current top-ranked team in its class, put on a shooting display that Sikeston, the top-ranked Class 4 team in the state, could not match.
For Sikeston and head coach Gregg Holifield, the opportunity to play the Class 5 juggernaut for the first time in school history was too good to pass up.
"It's one of those games where they contacted us wanting to play and we set it up for a two-year contract. We're just trying to play as good a people as we can play and Chaminade has one of the great programs in our state," Holifield said.
Chaminade showed why they are perhaps the favorite to repeat as state champions on Tuesday.
The Red Devils came out firing from the start and never let up, shooting a sizzling 38 of 63 (60 percent) from the field and drilling 13 of 27 (48 percent) from 3-point range.
Sikeston (10-2) kept pace for a half but couldn't slow down the Red Devils despite switching up its defense between its traditional 2-3 matchup zone and man-to-man.
"We changed defenses between man and zone, but at the end of the day they got into a comfort zone," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "You have to give them credit. They moved the basketball and found the open man and they really shot the ball well."
The Red Devils' immense lineup -- with seven players standing at least 6-foot-6 and one standing 6-11 -- helped them control the defensive boards, contest the Bulldog shooters and avoid Sikeston's pressure and traps by passing over the top.
"They have great size, plus they can all pass it and catch it very well," Holifield said. "Their size was a definite factor in the game."
Sikeston shot 29 of 66 (44 percent) from the field while hitting 6 of 17 (35 percent) from 3-point range.
Chaminade led from the opening tip with Sikeston only tying it at 2-2.
The Red Devils led by as much as six at two different junctures in the first quarter, but the Bulldogs' pressure defense forced seven turnovers to help them stay close.
Sikeston sophomore Trey Jenkins finished off a fast-break with a two-handed slam to trim the lead to 16-14 forcing Chaminade coach Frank Bennett to burn his second timeout.
Later in the period, Sikeston's Fred Thatch scored to cut the lead to 19-18 with 15 seconds left in the period, but the Red Devils hit two free throws to hold a 21-18 lead after one.
Sikeston kept pace through most of the second quarter but the Red Devils went on a run late in the period, opening up a 17-point lead at its largest. Sikeston was able to pull within 51-38 by halftime.
Bennett said his plan was to focus heavily on containing Thatch and Bulldog sophomore Kevin Jones.
"Just limiting Jones' and Thatch's opportunities," Bennett said. "We wanted to make sure we contested their jump-shots and not let them bully-ball us in the paint because they're very good at it. With Jones, as soon as he crosses half-court we saw in the semifinal against Vashon last year that he can shoot from anywhere. Sikeston was a shot or two away from the championship game and we didn't want to see that here. He got away from us a few times but we were solid enough to get the job done."
The heavy attention on Thatch and Jones freed things up for the 6-6 Jenkins, who got behind the Red Devils' defense for transition baskets and point blank layups. Jenkins scored 20 of his team-high 24 points in the first half to go with his eight rebounds.
Jenkins is averaging 19.5 points per game in his last four games.
"Trey's been playing very well. He's very active and our players have done a good job of finding him," Holifield said.
Chaminade erased any hopes of a Bulldog comeback with a 3-point assault in the third quarter, draining seven 3-pointers in the period to open up an insurmountable 84-59 lead.
"Once we settled in and started doing the things we teach, we were fortunate to make extra passes and break down the defense when they closed out. There wasn't much selfishness, especially in the second half," Bennett said.
The Bulldogs did not show any quit as they kept the score more respectable in the fourth quarter, out-scoring the Red Devils 25-18.
Thatch finished with 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals despite the constant attention from the Chaminade defense.
Jones finished with 11 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Freshman Payton Howard scored 12 points for the Bulldogs.
"You can tell they did a good job of keying in on Fred and Kevin," Holifleld said. "I thought our guys did a good job of moving the basketball."
Bennett had nothing but praise for Sikeston's team after the game.
"For the basketball junkie, Sikeston is the championship pedigree. Countless state contenders," Bennett said. "You know when you play them they're going to come out and play the hardest that any team has ever played. They will come down out of timeouts and slap the floor old school and get after you chest to chest and see how tough you are, and I absolutely love it. I admire it, so for us to be able to schedule a game with Sikeston is really fun and will only make us better."
Chaminade was led by 6-7 junior Jericole Hellems with 24 points, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Karrington Davis, a 6-6 junior, scored 19 points on 8 of 8 shooting with eight rebounds.
Sikeston out-rebounded the bigger Chaminade squad 31 to 26. The Bulldogs also forced the Red Devils into 14 turnovers, but only three in the second half.
Sikeston had 18 assists in the game and turned the ball over 15 times.
Bennett said he was excited to see his team play against a Bulldog program that he had seen and watched over the years competing in the state tournament.
"We had an open game and I contacted coach [Holifield] to see if they had an opening," Bennett said. "Their A.D. [Andy McGill] and coach moved some stuff around to make it happen and we're very thankful for it. I have seen them for years and I knew if I ever got the opportunity to play against those guys that it would be good for us. To play a perennial powerhouse like Sikeston is going to make you better, win or lose. We were fortunate to come on top tonight. I'm looking forward to playing them down in their house next year because it's going to be absolutely crazy down there."
Sikeston will play at Class 4 No. 5 state-ranked Farmington next Tuesday with junior varsity action starting at 6 p.m.
SIKESTON (84) -- Trey Jenkins 24, Fred Thatch 19, Payton Howard 12, Kevin Jones 11, Don Larry 8, Dylon Mills 4, Phayzun Fobbs 2, Jason Moore 2, Camden Sapp 2. FG 23, FT 20-23, F 15. (3-pointers: Jones 3, Howard 2, Thatch 1. Fouled out: none).
CHAMINADE (102) -- Jericole Hellems 24, Karrington Davis 19, Reggie Crawford 16, Jadis White 14, Luke Kasubke 10, Marin Vrucinic 9, Keyyaun Batchman 5, Colin Stolze 3, Dylan Branson 2. FG 25, FT 13-16, F 18. (3-pointers: Crawford 4, Hellems 4, Kasubke 2, White 1, Stolze 1, Vrucinic 1. Fouled out: none).