A stingy defensive effort by Poplar Bluff was the difference in a boys basketball victory over St. Clair Saturday at the Bank of Sullivan Shootout.
The Bulldogs (3-6) never got settled offensively and saw their three-game winning streak come to an end at Sullivan High School, 61-41.
“They did a very nice job defensively. On the catch, they were there every single time. They rotated well,” said St. Clair Head Coach Casey Korn. “The big man in the middle, he disrupts a lot of things. Offensively, we did not do a very good job. We did a good job boxing him out, but then nobody got the basketball.”
The more the game progressed, the more physical it got.
“I knew it was going to be physical, maybe not quite as much as it was,” Korn said. “Our players weren’t ready for it. I told them it was going to be physical and they were going to push us around, and they didn’t believe me. With that being said, we missed three layups and the front end of a one-and-one in the first half. We were right there.”
Neyko Dominguez led the way for St. Clair with 15 points, 12 in the second half.
Adam Brott finished the game with eight points. Brandon York and Reno Jones both added seven points. Will Rolley scored four points.
Poplar Bluff (6-2) won its sixth straight game after starting the season with two straight losses. Chris Stocks led the Mules with 15 points.
Leading 12-7 after one quarter, the Mules outscored the Bulldogs 18-10 in the second quarter to increase their advantage to 30-17 at intermission.
Hopes of a comeback fell short as St. Clair was outscored in the third quarter once again by an 18-10 margin to make the score 48-27.
The Bulldogs pulled to within 12 points in the fourth quarter before the Mules stretched it back to the final margin of 20 points.
“I think their pressure got to our guys. That’s something we’ve been addressing in practice. When we play a team like that, if we don’t practice like that every day, you’re not going to be ready,” Korn said. “We’ve been stressing it. We’re getting better. We’re not there yet. There are still days that we don’t get after it like we need to get after it. Hopefully it was an eye-opening experience.”
Korn still appreciated the effort throughout the contest.
“We didn’t quit. More than anything else, we’ve talked about working hard every day in every game and never giving up,” Korn said. “At one point we made it a 12-point game. We worked hard.”
St. Clair now will enjoy the holiday break.
“I actually get to give these kids a break. After we get a break, we can come back with some fresh legs and hit that first week to go over some things,” Korn said. “We’re still excited about what’s ahead of us. We want to be competing for a conference championship and a district championship. We’ve played pretty well in our two conference games. January is just a brutal month. I think we play 12 times.”
St. Clair does not play again until the Washington Tournament Jan. 7-12.
The eighth-seeded Bulldogs take on top-seeded Washington in the opening round Monday, Jan. 7, at 6 p.m.
“We have a long break to get ready for Washington, a really good team, at their tournament. We’ll be respectful of everyone we play, but we won’t be fearful of anyone. These kids have played against really good teams,” Korn said. “Hopefully we can give Washington a game. We’ll get a chance to see them play at Meramec. We have three weeks to prepare for them while they prepare for other things. They don’t even know who we are right now.”