The road can be a lonely place for some, but for the Mexico high school boys basketball program returning to Fayette on Friday to play four scrimmages at the Central Methodist University Shootout was anything but.

"We won 41-31 in our first matchup against Troy Buchanan. We jumped out to 14-0 lead and was fortunate to hang on," said boys assistant varsity basketball coach Darren Pappas. "We played really well defensively and pretty much dominated on the boards. Tyler Spargo came up real big playing inside and outside. Vern Williams and Jai Lawson attacked off the dribble and were able to finish around the glass. Matthew Huffman also gave us a good inside presence on both ends of the floor."

In their next contest against Springfield Catholic, the play in the paint didn't quite mirror the results the Bulldogs had against Troy. Instead, Mexico was up against a lot more size and talent, leading to a hard-fought defeat that proved to be worth the effort based on the lessons learned.

"They jumped out on us pretty early. Springfield had some big guys in their font-court that we struggled to hang with a little down low," Pappas said. "They also had some really good shooters in their back court. They knocked down some shots and we ran out of gas."

One element within these performances Pappas was certainly happy about was having Spargo back with the squad for the first time this summer because of other commitments. Warrenton, on the other hand, wasn't the least bit happy to see the senior forward take the court for Mexico in its third scrimmage of the day.

"Tyler definitely came out to play. He battled and I was happy with our results, not only with Tyler, but the whole team," said Pappas. "We came up a little bit short against Warrenton. It was back-and-forth the entire game. We cut their lead to four points late in the second half. They hit a late three-pointer and we then ran an inbounds play with 14 seconds left. We had two looks from the outside to tie the game and that lost shot just rimmed out as time expired."

Even though the Bulldogs lost two of their first three scrimmages Friday at CMU, Pappas stated he could see plenty of overall improvement in this squad. One issue that stood out to him against Warrenton was how well the team rebounded. Mexico's effort and attitude were on-point, as well.

"We're getting better reading defenses and attacking. I'm pleased ith the progress we've made this past week," Pappas said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but the kids seem to be learning the system and playing to the best of their ability."

In the teams final game against St. Charles, the Bulldogs simply didn't have the legs or the lungs they started the day with. That changed the focus from execution to conditioning, communication and willingness, all of which was exacerbated by the fact St. Charles has a high skill level that equated to a well-run full court press.

"They made us turn the ball over. We were tired, but it was a good opportunity to get some of the freshmen I brought with us some exposure and playing time so they could see what varsity basketball is all about," said Pappas. "It wasn't our best game. Playing four times makes for a long day. The guys gave it their all in every contest. We just couldn't compete with their athleticism and that pressure made us turn the ball over quite a bit. I'm pleased overall. We competed in every aspect of the game."

Next up for Mexico is a stretch of traditional practices designed to fine-tune all of the on-court aspects of this attack Pappas feels need work. The team might also attend another shootout at the end of the month depending on several different possible circumstances.

"We're just trying to find the right pieces to the puzzle right now. See what lineups work best. Once e get every guy in the gym and get back some guys that are injured I think we're going to see even more significant progress," Pappas said. "So far we've made some real progress in a short amount of time."