SCC, Sikeston will Show Me

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The t's have been crossed, the i's have been dotted and it is official: Scott County Central and Sikeston will meet in a boys basketball game Feb. 11 at the Show Me Center.

The game will be part of a doubleheader with Saxony Lutheran and Oran meeting in the opening game at 6 p.m.

Tickets for the doubleheader -- priced at $7 for adults and $5 for students -- go on sale 9 a.m. Friday at the Show Me Center box office.

The marquee matchup will be the first between the two programs since Jan. 5, 1971. Both are ranked among the state's top teams in their respective classes and considered the best squads in Southeast Missouri this season.

"We're all just thrilled and tickled this thing is getting going," said Oran superintendent Mitch Wood, who worked for weeks to rearrange the Feb. 10 scheduled games involving the four teams.

Oran was scheduled to play at Sikeston; Scott County Central was going to host Saxony Lutheran.

Sikeston, ranked No. 8 in Class 3, is 13-2. Scott County Central, ranked No. 2 in Class 1 after finishing third in the state last year, is 13-1. The only loss for either team to an in-state team was Sikeston's 72-64 season-opening defeat against Wildwood (Mo.) Lafayette in the Pepsi Showcase at the Show Me Center.

Sikeston coach Gregg Holifield said his players, who are very familiar with the players at nearby Scott County Central, are looking forward to the contest. He was not planning to tell them as word of the arranged game circulated last night while the Bulldogs were already en route to a game, but. ...

"As soon as we walked into the Farmington gym, everyone was talking about it," Holifield said. "All our kids are excited about it. They're all good friends [with the Braves['] players] and they've played together on the courts. It's going to be fun, I think. It ought to be exciting."

The schools had avoided scheduling each other since Scott County Central's overtime win in 1971, after which a couple of incidents took place.

Holifield said during his 11 years at Sikeston, he had not heard a lot of talk on rekindling the series until this year.

From 1976 to 1994, Scott County Central won a state record 12 state championships under Ronnie Cookson, who retired after the Braves finished second in the 1995 state tournament.

Cookson returned to the bench in 2007-08 and last year led the Braves back to the final four for the first time since that 1994-95 season. They have three returning starters -- all-state guard Drew Thomas, 6-foot-7 sophomore center Otto Porter and junior point guard Bobby Hatchett. Forward Randy Timmons also had plenty of playing time last season, and Desmin Williams moved into the fifth starting spot.

Scott County Central this season has won the Oran Invitational and the 16-team Southeast Missourian Christmas Tournament.

Sikeston failed to make it out of the district tournament in Class 4 last year with its season ended by eventual state champion Notre Dame. But the Bulldogs finished fourth in the final state poll, and they returned 6-5 senior all-state center Michael Porter, Otto's cousin. The Bulldogs also returned point guard Juqualin Wiggins, forward Eli Jackson and forward Cal Lane, a standout track athlete who won the triple, long and high jumps in the Class 3 state track meet last spring. Darryl Howard and Will Holifield, the coach's son, are also key contributors for Sikeston.

The Bulldogs in December won the championship of the SEMO Conference Tournament, which includes the area's largest schools.

Holifield, who was only 8 the last time the schools played, said his players have come to understand the history associated with the game.

"They probably didn't know the extent of it until it came up this year," Holifield said. "Our players and coaches have the utmost respect for their program."

The contest materialized six days after discussions between the schools' administrators fell through. Administrators attending Tuesday's meeting of the Missouri State High School Activities Association in Dexter rekindled the discussion and reached an agreement.

It was finalized Wednesday in a conference call, and talks also were completed with the Show Me Center, which had been included in previous conversations about a proposed matchup.

Oran, which lost at Saxony earlier this month, will be the host for the 6 p.m. game; Scott County Central will be the home team for the second game. Wood would not say how that was settled but the teams' game in 1971 was played at the Sikeston Fieldhouse.

The four schools will split evenly the proceeds from the ticket sales after the expense of the Show Me Center.

Tickets will be sold only at the Show Me Center box office. Tickets are not expected to be sold at the schools.

Wood said school officials thought that would be the most cost-effective way, having dealt with advance sales on district tournaments before.

"We're not in the business of that," Wood said. "We're in the business of education, and it takes away from that."

Student sections will be set up behind the baskets. Seating for the event will be general admission, first-come, first-served when the Show Me Center doors open at 5 p.m.

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