In the ever-continuing battle to get better, the Mexico boys basketball program returned to Central Methodist University on Wednesday for the first day of their second shootout.

"(In our fist scrimmage against Franklin South Central) things didn't go as well as I thought it would. We were outmatched on the boards," said assistant varsity boys basketball coach Darren Pappas. "They were pretty athletic and we couldn't play up to their level."

While the last shootout the Bulldogs attended in Fayette certainly wouldn't be considered small by any quantifiable standard, this one is slated to run from June 14-17. This event also featured 50 teams according to Eagles men's head basketball coach and associate professor Jeff Sherman via twitter.

"The second contest was against another good opponent, Fort Zumwalt South out of St. Louis. They're well-coached and have a lot of really good athletes," Pappas said. "Again we were outmatched on the offensive and defensive rebounds. However, I was impressed with how the guys stuck to the game plan and tried to compete to the best of their abilities. We just came up a little bit short and an out of gas in the second half. Their lead grew in the second half, but overall I was pleased with the effort."

In Mexico's third and final scrimmage it faced Excelsior Springs, which is located near Kansas City. After falling behind early, the Bulldogs bridged the gap from double digits to four points before finally losing by seven or eight.

"We've been relying on Matthew Huffman, Avion Williams and Cole Whalen to hold down our inside game," said Pappas. "We've been running a lot of pick and rolls. With them, it has paid off, but we have to get better. Our guards have to get better at reading defenses as they come off the screen and make some better decisions. Overall, though, I feel like we are understanding the system and what kind of style we want to play. In the half-court set we still need to extend the floor in order to run full-court."

One issue that's helped define exactly what Mexico can and can't do is the fact forward Tyler Spargo hasn't been with the squad this summer because of other commitments. Because that creates a void it's going to take more than just one person to fill, Pappas has been trying to spread the wealth amongst several different athletes, including point guard Vernon Williams.

"Vern has been doing a really good job this summer. He's been working on his ball handling and being able to create off the dribble," Pappas said. "He has done that. We've just got to get better when it comes to him finishing with contact. With his size, when he gets down low, he can create off the dribble and get into the paint. He's just got to be able to finish with contact. He's woking on that and tying to get better and it seems to be paying off for him."

Another returning guard who Pappas hopes to look to when the going gets tough in 2017-18 is Jai Lawson. Last year as a sophomore Lawson showed a wealth of on-court potential. Now that he's about to be a junior, Pappas' plan is to help him transform from what he is to what he can be.

"He's been doing really well creating off the dribble. Jai can also knock down some outside shots, so those two guards I'm going to lean on quite a bit, especially this summer, to kind of lead our team," said Pappas. "Hopefully the older kids will also help out the younger players understand what it means to be a point guard and lead the team while on the floor."

Next up for Mexico is another trip to CMU on Friday. This time around the squad will play four games stating at 10:00 a.m. against Troy. The Bulldogs then face Spring Catholic at 1:15 p.m., Warrenton at 2:45 p.m. and St. Charles at 4:30 p.m.

"It should be some good contests for us. We're going to take some of our younger guys with us this time so they can see the pace and flow of a varsity game," Pappas said. "They could possibly get some time on the court, as well, because we're trying to build something. We want to build our high school program with the current middle school athletes, eventually."