Even though the have been some close calls along the way, the first five games of Mexico varsity boys basketball coach Darren Pappas' initial season went off without a hitch.

While that included home North Central Missouri Conference wins over Boonville and Marshall, it was a different story for the Bulldogs when Hannibal came to town for a league game on Friday. That's because the Pirates ended the first quarter with a 17-10 lead and stayed in control the rest of the way, which never allowed Mexico to get comfortable and run its standard offense. Instead the Bulldogs were trailing 33-28 at halftime and 41-34 heading into the fourth before finally falling to Hannibal 61-46.

"The difference was our defensive effort. We tried to play zone in the first half so we could save our legs for the second half," said Hannibal coach Marty Hull. "(Tyler Spargo) got loose against us a little bit in the first half against the zone. I think we did a better job of guarding him in the second half. Our motion offense really worked. We got a lot of good shots at the basket."

The most telling quarter of this game was the second as Dezi Jones scored nine of his 26 points for the Pirates starting with a field goal and then a three-pointer at 5:00 that put his team up 23-14. The junior also made 3-of-4 free throws at 3:27 and 2:25 to help Hannibal stay ahead 27-18 and 29-20, respectively, with help from Preston Bennett, who also scored 13 on the night.

"It's stating to get typical that we expect Jones to get 20 to 30 points a game. The biggets thing about hin is thatn he's unselfish," Hull said. "He'll pass the ball, he'll un the offense and he'll wait until he gets a good shot. He's very patient. Jones could go one-on-one evey time, but he won't. That shows his character."

For the Bulldogs, even though they were only down five at halftime and then allowed just eight points in the third, it's floor General on the night was Jai Lawson ans his strongest quarter was the final one. This included a three-point play at 4:04 to make it a 47-41 game followed by a natural three-pointer that proved to be Mexico's last basket of the night with about three minutes to play.

"Hannibal got us out of our hythm offensively and we could never get out of that funk. Defensively we didn't do a very good job, ," said Mexico coach Darren Pappas. "Lawson was pretty aggressive on offense. I thought he did a good job trying to control our plays. We didn't attack the gaps like we have in previous games. We'll look at the film and try and get better. We're feeling good about things so far, but there's still a lot of work to be done."

Hannibal is now 3-5 overall, 2-1 NCMC.

Mexico, 5-1 overall, 2-1 NCMC, hosted Van-Far on Saturday in the Gary Filbert Classic.