Maybe it’s because the Bulldogs boys have played enough for two teams during this month and last, but prior to Saturday’s home game against Battle, the Mexico varsity girls’ basketball team hadn’t seen any on-court action since mid-December.
Even though that would have been the perfect recipe for a lackluster performance, the Lady Bulldogs instead came out looking as though Ed Costley and staff used that time with this team wisely. As for the Lady Spartans, 3-8 overall, not only were they dealing with much less of a gap in time away from the hardwood, but the simply never got on the same page as one another on offense, all of which worked its way together to help Mexico come out on top 41-27.
“I thought we started out with some good, early ball movement. Logan Blevins was active on the inside in the first half and really gave us some opportunities to get to the paint,” said Mexico head coach Ed Costley. “I also thought during the first half we had some good assists against their zone defense. We struggled coming out in the third quarter, and part of that was the switched to man-to-man. We just didn’t have our timing and rhythm against that look.”
In the initial quarter all Battle could muster was a free throw from Trinity McCoy at 3:58 and a field goal by Kendra Mackey to close out the session. Sandwiched around all of that were baskets by the Lady Bulldogs Logan Blevins and Reaghan Playter that Adria Costley followed up with five points of her own to make it a 9-3 game going into the second.
“I thought for the most part we did a good job coming out in the first half and getting what we want. It stayed 4-0 for a long time in first quarter and I thought we came out with good ball movement and then fell apart. We were trying to go for the kill,” Ed Costley said. “We’ve been trying to teach this team that you can’t go for the kill off one pass or one shot. Sometimes it’s takes four or five passes, but we did a good enough job by forcing them into some turnovers.”
The next session kicked off with Adria Costley and Playter teaming up on a seven-point effort that extended Mexico’s lead to 13-5 at 6:28 and 16-5 at 6:26 that Battle could only counter with a hoop from Mackey. That set the stage for Playter and Reagan Smith to go rogue and make a 9-4 run of their own for the Lady Bulldogs to end the quarter with a 24-9 lead that could have been so much more had it not been for field goals by the Lady Spartans McCoy and Paige Magee.
“Considering we hadn’t played a game prior to this in quite some time and we’ve got a few players still getting over some lingering injuries and others who are sick, that’s a big part of what we’re dealing with right now,” Ed Costley said. “We know we have to play through all of that and figure out ways to get it done. Losing Blevins at the end of the third was really big. We didn’t know she had four fouls and then the fifth one came really quick.”
What came after the break in the third quarter was eight minutes of back-and forth that started for Battle with a free throw by Aaliyah Williams and baskets from McCoy and Mackey. In that same time frame Taylor Sherrow scored once and Adria Costley connected twice from the charity stripe for Mexico at 3:43 to put the score at 27-14 with 3:43 remaining. Blevins then slid a pair of free throws between two Adria Costley hoops to make it 33-19 with a quarter to play.
“I think Mexico played a more mature game than we did. I know we have a lot of young kids, but that’s no excuse,” said Battle coach Michael Fernandez. “I think the ability to maintain focus and communicate for four quarters was a big issue. At halftime we switched to man defense because we felt if we could pressure them we could bother their offense and keep us from getting stagnant on defense. That was our main adjustment and I thought it worked pretty good.”
The last stanza wasn’t quite the same as the others and was marked by missed free throws on both sides. For Battle, Mackey did score twice and Williams once against seven points by Playter and one from Sherrow that slowly but surely brought this contest to a close in Mexico’s favor by 14 points.
“We have to get the ball reversed more and keep the tempo up. We want to take our time and look for a good shot, but we also want to keep the tempo flowing,” Fernandez said. “We can’t let the ball stop. That and the man defense are the two primary things we changed at halftime. These adjustments allowed us to execute better, but we also came out and played with more energy. This got us motivated and moving just a little bit more.”
The Lady Bulldogs, 5-4 overall, 3-1 NCMC, next played Monday at the Warrenton Tournament. They also begin the Macon Tournament on Jan. 15.
“Losing Shelbi Shaw for the next month leaves us thin in the post, and we didn’t have time to prepare that,” Ed Costley said. “We’ve got to work on that, mainly offensively, and see what we’re going to do there. Overall I thought we did a good job defensively by putting people into situations they weren’t used to and not letting (Mackey) score whenever she wanted to.”