The 2017-18 varsity boys basketball season has been a bit like a heavyweight title fight for the Mexico varsity boys basketball team, 8-6 overall, because win, lose or draw it's been hard for this squad to end any contest completely unscathed.
The good news is this squad doesn't back down and never surrenders. Considering this is Darren Pappas' first year as head coach nobody knew exactly what this team's identity was going to be until it proved it on the hardwood. Making that good news even better is that whatever ailed this team had a week to heal and now whoever gets between the Bulldogs and what they want has to go either over, around or through a front court that includes J'Marquay McGruder, Tyler Spargo and Matt Huffman.
Come Monday, Jan. 15, which is also Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Mexico returns from its one-week hiatus from the court and plays host Macon, 4-6 overall, at its tournament. As for what that means for both sides, in game one of the Tyronn Lue Championship Classic at home on Jan. 4, it may have taken overtime, but the Bulldogs dug deep and found whatever it took to beat Riverview Gardens (Springfield) 78-76.
This time around it was the backcourt that made the biggest difference, including Jai Lawson with 19 points and two rebounds, and because three games in three days is a tsak no team truly wants to take on for a multitude of reasons, Quinton Baumgartner scored two.
"This was a very fast paced game and Riverview Garden’s athleticism and pressure defense seemed to speed us up at times," said Pappas. "I’m proud of how hard the boys fought in overtime and found a way to execute late in the game. Overall, we’ve got to do a better job of capitalizing off of opponents turnovers."
It's not as though the Tiger's aren't without thier charms. The squad simply isn't as multi-faceted as Mexico. To be specific, Macon is a defensive oriented team that doesn't appear to thrive on offense. Instead, its highlights include beating Salisbury 54-43 at home on Nov. 28, on Jan. 3 the team won at Marceline 74-56 and on Jan. 5 the Tigers won in round two of the Marceline Tournament against Meadville 55-38.
If there's a trend to be found there it's that the team seems to be winning more since returning from Holiday break. According to maxpreps.com the Tigers have still lost four of their last six games, though, and are ranked 239th in the state and 7,826th in the nation. Mexico, on the other hand, is listed at 190th in Missouri and 6,525 in the nation.