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Friday, May 26, 2017

Anticipated rematch between Sikeston and Vashon set for Saturday's Class 4 quarterfinal

Thursday, March 9, 2017

(Photo)
Sikeston's Fred Thatch drives to the basket against Hillsboro's Gaven Pinkley iin a Class 4 sectional game Tuesday, March 7, 2017, at the Farmington Civic Center in Farmington, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard-Democrat.com)
SIKESTON -- When the Missouri State High School Activities Association released its pairings for the state tournament, the most notable change was defending state champion Vashon was moved into Sikeston's side of the bracket for the next two year cycle.

The team that defeated the Bulldogs 69-66 in overtime in the Class 4 semifinals last year, was now going to be sitting directly in Sikeston's path to a possible repeat final four appearance.

Of course, both Vashon and Sikeston would have to win their respective districts and sectional games, but that became a reality on Tuesday when the top-ranked Wolverines beat No. 2 ranked St. Mary's 72-68 in overtime and third-ranked Sikeston defeated Hillsboro 70-56.

The much-anticipated rematch will happen on Saturday at noon in a Class 4 quarterfinal game at Jefferson College in Hillsboro.

Vashon (24-3), like last year, is a matchup nightmare for opponents with its huge frontline, skilled guards and accurate perimeter shooters.

"We're very familiar with them," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "We know it's going to be an extremely tough opponent. Our players have really prepared hard to compete against them. Hopefully we'll play well."

The Wolverines are led by Kansas State recruit Levi Stockard, a 6-foot-8, 245-pound senior. Stockard averages a team-leading 13.6 points per game and 8.6 rebounds.

Point guard Daniel Farris, a 6-foot senior, is the catalyst for the offense, averaging 10.9 points, 3.8 assists and 2 steals per game while providing the bulk of the ball-handling duties. Farris was the biggest problem for Sikeston in last year's semifinal game, scoring a game-high 22 points.

Joseph Reece, a 6-8 junior, averages 11.8 points per game. Mario McKinney, a 6-2 sophomore, averages 10.1 points per game.

Koray Gilbert, a 6-4 senior, averages 9.7 points and is the team's leading 3-point shooter, hitting 33 on the season.

Gilbert hurt the Bulldogs in the semifinal game last year, hitting a season-high five 3-pointers to finish with 17 points.

Casey Cody-Jackson and Darren Huntley are a pair of 6-1 guards that provide ball-handling and defense for the Wolverines.

Farris, Reece, McKinney and Cody-Jackson are all capable perimeter shooters for Vashon.

Tromon Weston, a 6-9 senior, brings length off the bench and is second on the team in blocked shots.

Kobe Clark, Cam'ron Fletcher and Armoni Ward are all 6-4 freshmen that could also see playing time, providing the Wolverines with plenty of depth.

"I think it is possibly the most talented team we've seen," Holifield said. "Their size is outstanding and they have great guards that can handle and shoot the basketball. Their size is imposing and they're bigger than everybody. It's going to be difficult and we know that. We have to defend and we have to guard. That's the kind of team that can get on a roll and before you know it you're down 20. You have to limit their runs and keep them out of the lane. But you also have to defend the 3-point line. At the end of the day you have to rebound. We'll have to get on the glass and keep them off the boards and not turn the ball over when we're on offense."

Vashon has only lost to one Missouri team, falling to Class 5 No. 1 ranked Webster Groves 60-59 on Feb. 16. The Wolverines' other two losses came to Blue Valley Northwest, Ks.,(60-56) and Jonesboro, Ark., (81-63).

Sikeston comes into the game 24-4, having lost to McCluer (82-73), Chaminade (102-84), Miller Career Academy (76-61) and Jackson (69-67).

The Bulldogs captured tournament titles in the SEMO Conference Tournament, St. Dominic Christmas Tournament and also the Fort Zumwalt North Tournament. Sikeston also won the SEMO Conference regular season title.

Sikeston had some tough times immediately before the district, losing its final two regular season games to Miller Career and Jackson and then barely escaping fourth-seeded Dexter 56-54 in the district semifinals.

But the Bulldogs rebounded to defeat Cape Central 76-55 in the district title game and then Hillsboro in the sectional on Tuesday.

"Our guys are working really hard," Holifield said. "It's one of those things where we have to continue to try to improve and get better. We hit a lull that every team goes through. We had about a two-week period there. Hopefully we can play a great game on Saturday."

Sikeston is led by 6-3 junior Fred Thatch, who averages 25.6 points, 12.1 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.3 steals. Sophomore guard Kevin Jones follows up with 14.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 3.8 steals.

Trey Jenkins, a 6-6 sophomore, averages 11.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

Rounding out the starting five are senior guards Jason Moore and Phayzun Fobbs. Moore averages 6.1 points while Fobbs scores 3.5 points per game.

Freshman guard Payton Howard averages 5.6 points and 6-4 junior Dylon Mills scores 2.2 points with 2.8 rebounds per game. Clark Steward, a 6-3 freshman, has also provided steady minutes for the Bulldogs with solid ball-handling, rebounding and defense this season.

"I feel like we've had a great season," Holifield said. "We've won four tournament championships including our district. We've achieved several of our goals and one of our goals is to advance to this quarterfinal and play well and have a chance to advance."

Sikeston is competing in its eighth quarterfinal in the last 12 seasons. This will be the fourth matchup between Sikeston and Vashon. Sikeston is 0-3 against the school, also losing in 1994 and 1995 in the quarterfinal round and semifinal round, respectively.


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