In early December the Mexico varsity boys basketball team was still a work in progress while Moberly was coming out swinging each and every night.
Jump ahead to Jan. 24 and that divide had almost disappeared even with the loss of J'Marquay McGruder as the Bulldogs kept the game close all evening before finally getting edged out 55-51. Prior to this Mexico hadn't played at home since hosting Kirksville on Dec. 13.
"We have to get Tyler Spargo to be aggressive for us," said coach Nick Bradford. "In order for us to win, Tyler is going to have to be aggressive> He'll have to play inside, play outside and guard. He's going to have to rebound, he's going to have to score. We're asking a lot of Tyler."
After these teams traded baskets in the first quarter to the point the Spartans were up 16-14, the second began with field goals by Chris Campbell, Isaac Troy and Tyler Spargo for the Bulldogs, which were still down 24-22 at 3:54. Mexico did grab a short-lived 25-24 advantage at 2:21 on scores by Spargo and Jon Grubb, only to see Rohokist Amado and Braedan Wetric connect to put Moberly back in the drivers seat 28-27 heading into halftime.
"In the first half we came out and competed. We made some mental mistakes on the defensive end, but we buckled down, came back and played a lot tougher than we have in some time," Bradford said.
The third was a much more up-and-down affair that began with the Bulldog's grabbing a 31-28 lead thanks to Spargo and Matthew Huffman. Moberly's was far from shook, though, and instead responded with hoops from Amado and Tucker Dobyns and free throws by Daran Gaines to pull ahead 38-36 at 3:22.
"Our effort was better than it has been the past couple games, so I liked that. Defense was a little bit better," said Bradford. "We have some things we have to work on, but the main things is we're competing.
Now down 43-39 with 5:47 left in the fourth, Mexico blinked just long enough for that gap to grow to 48-40 at 4:39. Once that run was put to rest the Bulldog's were able to make it a 52-49 game with less than a minute to play on scores from Jai Lawson, Spargo, Grubb and Vernon Williams. The team even had a chance to tie the game soon there after, but when that didn't take the Spartan's Isaiah Kitchen completed a three-point play with :28.0 left in regulation that finally put this decision to rest.
Mexico, 5-11 overall, hosts Boonville for a North Central Missouri Conference contest on Friday.