This Friday at home against Moberly in North Central Missouri Conference action will be the final game of the regular season for the Mexico varsity boys basketball team, 13-9 overall, 5-4 NCMC.
That means eight Bulldogs will be playing the final regular season game of their high school careers. Depending on playoff draws, these eight individuals, no matter how grateful they are to coaches such a Darren Pappas, Dion Nunnely and Brandon Schafer, regardless of how valid and how deserving they are, might never play another meaningful contest on the Gary Filbert Court.
The only solution to that conundrum is to make memories that will last a lifetime come Feb. 16. That's easier said than done, though. Especially in league play. But, considering the Bulldogs just lost in the final seconds on Senior Night earlier this week to Kirksville, that should be enough to either push this team over the edge or under everybody's expectations.
"The difference in the game was rebounding. We gave Kirksville too many opportunities offensively and they executed down the stretch," said Pappas. "We will look at the film and figure out our deficiencies on both ends of the floor then try to improve on those. We’ve got to put this one behind us as tough of a loss as it is and get ready for Moberly on Friday."
One player whose bound and determined to be a problem for anybody and everybody who gets in his way recently for Mexico is forward Tyler Spargo, who scored 20 with six rebounds against the Tigers and will look to do even more damage against the Spartans on Friday. Jai Lawson also gave a 12-point performance against Kirksville that he hopes to improve on and Vern Williams scored eight while both opening up the lanes because of his ability to drive and finding the open man.
"It doesn’t get any easier down the stretch as we get closer to districts. We’ve got to regroup and refocus on both ends of the floor to turn it back around," Pappas said. "We hope to see another large crowd on Friday as we are celebrating our eight seniors who have given so much to this Mexico Basketball program over the years."
Besides Williams and Spargo, the rest of this senior class for the Bulldogs includes Cameron Holman, Huffman, Quinton Baumgartner, Jonathon Grubb and J'Marquay McGruder. As for the last second lost for the Tigers, while Pappas isn't wrong about the inside play, the game was back and forth the entire time, and while Mexico ended the first quarter down 12-8, it also ended the second tied 25-25 and the third leading 42-26.
"Friday night is going to be emotional. They've given me a lot over the years," said Pappas. "They've been a real joy to coach and I've really enjoyed seeing them grow up. I hope the fans come out and support these seniors. They're great guys. I'm definitely not looking forward to Friday and watching them put on the white uniforms one last time."
On Jan. 23 when the Bulldogs traveled to the Spartans the end results was a 71-64 victory highlighted by 12 points from Grubb and Spargo and Williams charted 14 points each with a combined 11 rebounds. Lawson also gave a 20 point performance and Huffman came through with five points and five rebounds, which for these five are just starting points they hope to outdo in quite a memorable fashion.
"Moberly is pretty young. They only play about six guys," Pappas said. "We know that we have more depth than they do. We have to just come out and want it from the tip. From the tip to the final buzzer we have to want it and we have to go earn it. One things we've learned by being in this league is that it doesn't matter who you play, it doesn't matter their record. They're all good opponents who bring it every single night."