There are prices to pay for every accomplishment in life, and for the Mexico varsity girls basketball team the cost of winning seven of its 10 North Central Missouri Conference contests turned out to be more than a non-league schedule that was about as rough and tough as it gets for a Class 4 school.
The fact the Lady Bulldogs were able to run that non-league gauntlet Athletic Director Jeff Anderson established for them with an eye on the Missouri State High School Activities Association postseason tournament and win five out of 14 to end up 12-12 overall was quite the accomplishment.
The only thing this group never really discussed until the very end was that once they lost to Warrenton 61-43 at Class 4, District 8, hosted by Hannibal on Feb. 26, it would be the final time guard Raigan Playter and forward DeVera Cotton ever set foot on a high school basketball court as players.
"Raigan lettered varsity all four years and started Varsity her sophomore year. Raigan has been a consistent competitor each year. She has been one of the best three-point shooters in our conference over the years. Losing her experience for us at the guard spot will be missed," said coach Ed Costley. "DeVera was a new addition to our team. She brought great energy to our practice. DeVera is a kid we wish could've been with us for more than a season. She would've made a huge impact in the long run."
Next season this squad will be built around a senior core that will include First Team All-NCMC and First-Team All-District guard Reghan Smith, Second-Team All-NCMC forward Logan Blevins and Shelbi Shaw. Costley also hopes to return Rachel Kristofferson, Catie Bledsoe and Kaylee Jones, which will give him and his staff a large amount of leadership to work with, as well as just as many holes to fill when this entires group graduates en-mass.
"Guard play will be crucial losing an outside scorer like Reghan. Abbie Oetting and Rachel Kristofferson will be asked to develop shooting to fill that loss," Costley said. "We hope these girls find ways to maintain the growth they've made through the season by working this summer on shooting and ballhandling. A couple girls expressed how they want to add to their game. Shelbi Shaw being one who'd like to improve ballhandling. We feel she could be a good three-point shooter next year."
In sticking to the positives, one specific Costley can hang his hat on regarding 2018-19 is that the Lady Bulldogs won their initial district game 42-33 over Warrenton at Hannibal on Feb. 25. Because this team was able to find some immediate playoff success, Costley, in turn, believes some of the younger players have already begun working on their own with next season in mind. It's those specific efforts that may just allow one athlete to outplay the other when it comes time to earn positions this fall.
"We had some great growth in some of our individuals, Reghan Smith grew this year changing from the off-guard position last year to be the point guard for us. The average spectator doesn't know the type of mental/physical task it is to be a point guard at this level," said Costley. "Our young players really gave us a different style of play with a pressure and uptempo game that we have been accustomed to in past years. That will be an area we will look to improve on."
Highlights this season for Mexico included winning at Hannibal 52-37 on Dec. 14, on Dec. 19 the team was victorious at Fulton 45-28 and on Jan. 4 in round two of the Tyron Lue Tournament the Lady Bulldogs defeated Bowling Green 44-31.