FARMINGTON – Top-ranked Sikeston initially struggled to combat the superior size of Farmington at the defensive end of the court on Tuesday night.
But a change in scheme and increase in pressure forced the Knights to spread farther apart during the second quarter, and longer passes resulted in more frequent turnovers.
The undefeated Bulldogs generated a pivotal 19-5 run before halftime, and their sensational guard play thwarted any hope of a Farmington challenge from there.
Kevin Jones and Payton Howard scored 20 points each, and Sikeston prevailed 89-62 while downing the foul-plagued Knights for the 17th consecutive time spanning 14 years.
Parker Long sank four 3-pointers, and produced 19 points as the Bulldogs (12-0) simply had too much firepower. They committed only three turnovers in the first 25 minutes.
Senior forward Tycen Gray moved past 1,500 career points by scoring a game-high 22 for the Knights (12-2), who thrived on excellent interior passing early on.
Behind a solid start at home, Farmington gained vocal support amid a large crowd that gathered to witness a rare regular-season clash of top-five Class 4 basketball programs within the region.
Cole Gerstenberger followed his own miss on a designed inbounds play, then received an assist from Bryce Sancegraw on a baseline layup that established a brief 25-23 lead.
Sikeston only ramped up the intensity following a timeout, however, and was only encouraged as Gray, Gersternberger and center Cole Laurence collected three fouls each before the break.
Parker put his team back on top with a 3-pointer after an offensive rebound was tipped out for a reset. Jones then made a steal near the sideline before hitting a transition layup with contact.
Jones and Parker immediately answered scores by Gray and Gerstenberger with threes, and Howard nailed a pull-up jumper off another steal by Clark Steward for a 40-30 advantage.
The tempo became faster – and more comfortable – for the visitors as they extended a 47-34 halftime edge. Even when Farmington scored, there was barely any time to retreat on defense.
Jones set up Trey Jenkins with an outlet pass just seconds after Laurence hit a putback, and Howard streaked in for an uncontested layup to match one by Sancegraw.
Jones worked for inside position, and converted a physical putback at 60-44. His sudden step-back dagger from 22 feet helped Sikeston build a 74-54 margin as the third quarter ended.
Gerstenberger tallied 13 of his 16 points in the first half, and had eight rebounds to equal Laurence. Sancegraw finished with nine points and five assists.
The Knights were less effective at protecting the rim as the action transpired. Gray still netted 11 points after sustaining his fourth foul on a charging call less than two minutes out of halftime.
Jenkins chipped in 12 points, and threw down his second dunk with an explosive lift-off to begin the final period. Owen Long added nine points for the Bulldogs.
Farmington withstood numerous attempts by Sikeston to strike early from the perimeter, and grabbed a 9-8 lead on a 3-pointer by Gray.
Jones responded with two straight layups – the second resulting from a steal – and Owen Long located Jenkins for a baseline slam.
Farmington began the second quarter with a putback from senior reserve Chad Silvey and tying basket from Laurence at 21-21.
The teams would meet again in March if both can successfully navigate district play. Cape Central is one of just two clubs to play Sikeston with single digits this season.
The Knights will resume conference play against North County on Friday. The next individual accolade on the horizon for Gray is the school scoring record of 1,601 points set by Jordan Ankrom.