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Monday, June 26, 2017

Big second half from Vashon proves too much for Sikeston in Class 4 quarterfinal

Saturday, March 11, 2017

An upset Kevin Jones sits on the Sikeston bench after fouling out in a Class 4 quarterfinal game Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
HILLSBORO, Mo. -- Heading into Saturday afternoon's Class 4 quarterfinal game against Vashon, the Sikeston Bulldogs knew they would have to play their best game of the season to knock off the defending state champions.

Sikeston controlled the game for a half, but Vashon's size, quickness and shooting ability eventually proved to be too much in the second half as the Bulldogs fell 62-53 in front of a capacity crowd at Jefferson College in Hillsboro.

Vashon, the top-ranked team in Class 4, advances to the Show-Me Showdown in Columbia for the second straight year, thwarting Sikeston's bid for a return trip to the final four. Vashon will play Kearney (21-7) in a Class 4 state semifinal at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena.

Sikeston's Fred Thatch drives around Vashon's Joseph Reece in a Class 4 quarterfinal game Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
Sikeston, ranked No. 3 in the state heading into district play, finishes its season at 24-5.

The Bulldogs led by as much as 12 in the first half and held a 24-20 halftime lead, but the Wolverines (25-3) took control early in the third quarter and held on down the stretch.

"I thought we really played well in the first half," Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said. "I thought our guys did a good job defensively in the first half. In the second half we had some turnovers that led to points for them. They got a lead on us and they became very patient. We came out and guarded them man and they hurt us off dribble penetration. We had our chances and had some good looks at the basket that rolled in and out. A couple breaks here and there could've been the difference between winning and losing."

Vashon held a 43-38 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Sikeston's Kevin Jones puts up a shot against Vashon in a Class 4 quarterfinal game Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
Sikeston was able to stay within striking distance, but its last best chance came after a Jason Moore 3-pointer cut the gap to 55-50 with 3:55 left.

Sikeston then came up with a steal with a chance to make it a one-possession game, but the Bulldogs couldn't capitalize.

Vashon was able to drain the clock for over a minute and with 2:25 left, Sikeston fouled Daniel Farris. The senior, nicknamed "Peanut," sank both free throws to extend the lead to seven.

On Sikeston's ensuing possession, Trey Jenkins was fouled, barely missing the "and-one" as the ball rolled out. 8Jenkins settled for a 1 of 2 trip to the free throw line to cut the lead to 57-51 with 2:01 left.

Vashon went into its delay game again, eventually forcing the Bulldogs to foul. Farris knocked down two more free throws.

Sikeston's Fred Thatch hit two free throws with 1:05 left to cut the lead to 60-53 and then immediately forced a turnover off the press.

With one last chance at a comeback, Sikeston turned it back over leading to a fast-break layup by sophomore standout Mario McKinney to reach the Wolverines' biggest lead of the game, which turned out to be the final margin.

Sikeston's Trey Jenkins puts up a shot against Vashon in a Class 4 quarterfinal game Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
"The ball just didn't bounce our way," Holifield said. "We had some loose ball situations and we couldn't come up with the basketball a couple times. They came up with a couple loose balls and they hit their free throws down the stretch."

Farris made 8 of 10 free throws in the second half and scored all of his team-high 14 points in the second half. He also had five assists and three steals.

Vashon's shooting came alive in the second half with Koray Gilbert sinking three 3-pointers in the third quarter. The Wolverines shot 15 of 24 (63 percent) in the second half and 24 of 51 (47 percent) overall in the game. They went 4 of 15 (27 percent) from 3-point range, making 3 of 5 in the second half.

"I thought we shot really well in the second half," Vashon coach Tony Irons said. "Our plan is to go inside-out and try to get something going into the basket and try not to settle for so many open shots. We like to call it 'fool's gold' sometimes -- when you're open but sometimes you're playing into the defense's hands if you take quick ones and you're not looking to be aggressive. We like to be aggressive and attack and look for the kick-out."

In the first quarter, Vashon started the game with a 4-0 lead with 6-foot-8 Kansas State recruit Levi Stockard scoring inside and then Gilbert going back-door for an alley-oop dunk.

The Wolverines led by as much as 8-3, but the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game at 10-10 after one quarter of play after a 7-2 run.

Sikeston took control in the second quarter, opening up a 24-12 lead after back-to-back corner 3's by Moore off Kevin Jones assists with 3:10 left in the half to send the enormous Bulldog fan base into a frenzy, forcing Irons to burn a timeout.

Moore's second 3-pointer capped a 21-4 run by the Bulldogs that spanned the first and second quarters.

The Sikeston student section cheers before the Bulldogs game against Vashon in a Class 4 quarterfinal game Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
"They came out playing hard and hit us in the mouth early," Irons said. "We scored on our first two possessions and then we kind of hit a wall when they turned up the defensive pressure on us. I think we kind of got rattled a little bit and tried to force things that weren't there and would turn the ball over and they would capitalize and that would jump-start them and made us play a little apprehensive."

However, with 2:53 left Thatch picked up his third foul along the baseline, sending him to the bench for the remainder of the half.

The Wolverines took advantage, finishing the half on an 8-0 run to trim the lead to 24-20 heading into the locker rooms.

"That was our goal. We called timeout and said 'we've got to cut it down to five by halftime' and we cut it to four so that was even better," Irons said. "We knew that it was a game of runs. Both teams are good teams. When they made their run we had to weather the storm and wait on our run."

Vashon carried its momentum into the third quarter where they grabbed control of the game. Counting its run to end the first half, the Wolverines went on a 22-3 run that spanned the second and third quarters that carried them the rest of the way.

The Wolverines hounded Sikeston's guards, particularly Kevin Jones and Thatch, with full-court defense and traps with their great length and athleticism.

"We wanted to kind of wear Jones down and we knew Thatch was going to be Thatch -- he's a great player," Irons said. "We just wanted to make things difficult for both of them and make them take tough shots and use our length. We wanted to switch guards on Thatch and we also switched Joe Reece on him, who's 6-8. With Jones we wanted to pressure him and try to wear him down, but man he's a great player as well. He made some things happen for them. We wanted to force some other people to handle the ball and make some decisions."

Sikeston's Jason Moore drives to the basket against Vashon in a Class 4 quarterfinal game Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
Thatch finished with 12 points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Jones had 14 points, four rebounds and four assists.

The Bulldogs got a big shooting night from senior Jason Moore, who finished with 13 points, including three 3-pointers. Sophomore center Trey Jenkins added eight points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks.

Sikeston out-rebounded the huge Wolverine lineup 27 to 21 in the game.

Vashon had 14 turnovers while Sikeston finished with 16 turnovers.

The Bulldogs shot 18 of 38 (47 percent) from the field and 4 of 10 (40 percent) from 3-point range.

The Wolverines got 13 points apiece from Gilbert and McKinney, who also had four steals. Stockard had 11 points, six rebounds and four steals. Reece had some of the most crucial plays of the game, scoring seven of his nine points in the fourth quarter, mostly on offensive putbacks.

Sikeston and Vashon met in the state semifinals in Columbia a year ago, a game that the Wolverines won 69-66 in overtime before capturing the state championship two nights later.

But the Missouri State High School Activities Association revamped the district alignments for the next two years, pitting Sikeston and Vashon in the same quarterfinal bracket this season.

Irons voiced his displeasure that two of the state's top teams had to meet before the state tournament as well as his enjoyment of playing the Bulldogs over the years, dating back to 2011 when he coached Imagine College Prep.

Sikeston fans react late in the fourth quarter of the Bulldogs' loss to Vashon in a Class 4 quarterfinal game Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo.
(David Jenkins/Standard Democrat)
"We felt at the end of the day that either one of us should have this opportunity to get to Columbia because it's two great teams, but unfortunately this is how [MSHSAA] set stuff up," Irons said. "Every time we play [Sikeston], you know exactly what you're going to get. They're well-coached with a great tradition and a great program. We know it's going to be a hard-fought game. We know it's going to be physical, we know it's going to be tough. We know it's going to be electric for the fans with two teams that get up and down and get after it. We expected this to be a really, really good game, and it was."

Sikeston graduates four seniors: Phayzun Fobbs, Moore, Camden Sapp and Elgin Moore.

"We're going to miss our seniors," Holifield said. "They came in every day ready to work and ready to improve. They had great attitudes and were team guys. They've been around our program since the seventh grade and they will be missed."

The loss closes the book on a successful season by the Bulldogs.

"We set our goals at the start of the season and we accomplished all of our goals," Holifield said. "We won all of our tournaments that we were in, won the SEMO Conference, won 20 games again, and won our district tournament, but we just ran into a very good team today -- we fell a little short of our ultimate goal," Holifield said. "We knew they would be a difficult matchup for us. I thought we played hard and fought until the end but just came up a little short, but I'm proud of my guys for another great season."


VASHON (62) -- Daniel Farris 14, Koray Gilbert 13, Mario McKinney 13, Levi Stockard 11, Joseph Reece 9, Casey Cody-Jackson 2. FG 24, FT 10-17, F 17. (3-pointers: Gilbert 3, McKinney 1. Fouled out: Cody-Jackson).

SIKESTON (53) -- Kevin Jones 14, Jason Moore 13, Fred Thatch 12, Trey Jenkins 8, Phayzun Fobbs 2, Payton Howard 2, Dylon Mills 2. FG 18, FT 13-18, F 16. (3-pointers: Moore 3, Jones 1. Fouled out: Jones).