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Mules 70, Sikeston 65Posted Friday, February 6, 2009, at 10:07 PM
The race for the SEMO Conference title just got interesting.
Poplar Bluff rallied from a 34-22 halftime deficit Friday night to beat Sikeston, 70-65, in a battle of the last two unbeaten teams in SEMO play.
Poplar Bluff senior Riley Raulston scored 21 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, hitting three straight 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter. Freshman guard Kendrick McCain, who had scored five points in seven varsity games this season, scored eight points on 2-of-3 shooting from 3-point range.
Michael Porter led Sikeston with 17 points. Eli Jackson had 14 points and seven rebounds and Niquavious Dixon added 13 points. Juqualin Wiggins had six points and nine assists for the Bulldogs (14-3, 3-1 SEMO).
The Mules (13-7, 4-0) used a 17-3 run to open the second half, taking the lead on Chis Kilgore's putback with 3:37 left in the third. Jackson quickly answered for Sikeston, which broke a 41-41 tie with Will Holifield's 3-pointer.
The Bulldogs took a 48-45 lead into the fourth but turned the ball over on the opening possession. The teams then traded scores for the next 4 minutes, during which McCain hit a 3 and Raulston hit a trio of 3s, the final one giving the Mules a 61-54 lead with 4:11 to go.
Porter answered with a 3 from straightaway, then got a steal and dunk to cut Poplar Bluff's lead to 61-59.
Following a pair of free throws by Greg Coble, the Poplar Bluff junior pulled down a missed shot and quickly pushed the ball up the floor. Coble hit Raulston with a pass for a fastbreak layin for a six-point lead and 3:06 to go.
Porter's free throws later pulled Sikeston closer and a steal by Cal Lane led to Jackson's bucket got the Bulldogs to within 65-63 with 1:58 left.
Lane again got another steal but Sikeston came away empty and Coble scored with 53 seconds left off a pass from Kilgore. Jackson's back door layin off a Holifield pass cut Poplar Bluff's lead to three and Raulston missed a one-and-one opportunity with 30 seconds left.
Lane missed a jumper and Jay Raulston pulled down the rebound, getting fouled and hitting two free throws with 11.4 seconds left. Following a missed 3 by Sikeston, Jay Raulston sank another free throw to set the final score and a wild celebration.
Poplar Bluff still has conference road games at New Madrid County Central, which has already beaten the Mules twice this season, and at Charleston. The Mules travel to NMCC on Thursday then host Notre Dame a day later.
Homcoming night didn't start well for the Mules as Sikeston scored the first 11 points and led 15-1 midway through the opening quarter. Eight of those points came off Poplar Bluff turnovers against Sikeston's press. The Mules didn't hit their first field goal until 3:54 mark of the first quarter, missing their first four shots, before scoring eight straight points. Riley Raulston started the rally with a steal leading to Jake White's 3-pointer. A pair of steals by Jay Raulston also led to buckets but the Mules still trailed 17-10 heading into the second quarter.
Todd Bullington set up Jay Raulston's dunk and his offensive rebound led to Kilgore's bucket to pull the Mules to within 19-14. Sikeston then went on a 11-4 run to push the lead back to double digits. The run was highlighted by Wiggins' half-court lob to Lane for a dunk and a 30-18 lead with 2:43 left in the half.
Kilgore hit a shot falling back in the closing seconds of the half to pull the Mules to within 34-22.
Jay Raulston had 12 points, 10 rebounds, two steals, two blocks and two assists for the Mules while Kilgore had 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds. Poplar Bluff shot 68.1 percent from the field in the second half, including 7-of-12 from 3-point range after hitting 9-of-22 shots in the first half and missing 11 free throws. Poplar Bluff hit 8-of-12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Sikeston's pressure defense in the first half helped build a lead but it also got the Bulldogs in foul trouble, sending the Mules to the line 14 times in the first half. The Bulldogs shot 51.8 percent from the field including 4-of-8 from 3-point range, but got outrebounded, 29-26, and had as many turnovers as the Mules.
Full story in Sunday's DAR
Discussion for the night ... free throw margin.
Fans love to talk about free throw margins, especially after a road loss. Tonight is a great example because Poplar Bluff hit 14-of-28 free throws to Sikeston's 5-of-11. Of course, stats can be misleading, here's why:
Mules shot 28 free throws but 5 attempts came in the final minute when Sikeston fouled to extend the game (leaving 23 attempts left to account for). The Mules also got to the free-throw line 5 times after an offensive rebound (take away those attempts if the Bulldogs get those rebounds and there's 18 attempts left). Take away the fouls following a turnover (a make-them-earn-it foul) that takes away four more attempts for the Mules, leaving 14 attempts.
The biggest factor in the game was the 3-point shooting by the Mules in the second half. They hit 7-of-12 shots from long range and outscored Sikeston 48-31 in the second half.
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Brian Rosener has been the sports editor for the Daily American Republic in Poplar Bluff, Mo. since December 2001. He was born and raised in St. Louis, where he attended Lindbergh High School and Webster University. He is married to Jennifer, a Poplar Bluff native, has a son Jack, 11, who is a much better golfer and swimmer, and a dog named Satchel.