Hannibal’s full-court press changed the entire game Friday night.
The Pirates went from down 22-14 at halftime to applying more pressure and outscoring the Mexico boys basketball team by five in the third quarter.
The host Bulldogs went from calm and collected to rushed and panicked within minutes. What felt like a runaway game for Mexico in the first half turned into a three-point game heading into the final eight minutes.
“We were getting impatient against the 1-2-2 press,” Mexico coach Darren Pappas said. “They were forcing us to turn it over and we were trying to press the issue too much in transition.”
Hannibal started the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run. When senior Adreke Brumbaugh got a steal near mid-court and finished with an emphatic right-handed dunk in transition, Bulldog fans fell silent.
The Pirates, who hadn’t led since 3:15 left in the first quarter, now were up 37-34.
But that’s when Pappas found out the most about his Mexico team.
After Brumbaugh’s jam and celebration while sauntering toward the Pirates bench, the Bulldogs found a new gear. Mexico (2-1) finished the game on a 22-11 run and won 56-48 in North Central Missouri Conference play behind Isaiah Reams and Raef Yager’s 13 fourth-quarter points.
“We really stepped our defense up and began to pressure them more,” Reams said after the win. “Forcing turnovers while taking care of the ball.”
Reams was a part of a balanced attack for Mexico. The Bulldogs had three starters in double digits: Reams (14), Yager (14) and Drew Blevins (10).
Hannibal, meanwhile, was dependent on Brumbaugh, who scored a game-high 24 points. He was the only Pirate in double figures, with the next-closest Tristen Terrill scoring nine points.
Despite starting 0-for-7 from the field, 0-for-2 from three and empty after one trip to the free-throw line, the Bulldogs only found themselves down six points three minutes into the game. Brumbaugh jumped out with four quick points, and the Bulldogs were searching for anything to fall.
However, when Yager finished a floater through contact with 4:31 left in the first quarter, it sparked a 6-0 run for the Bulldogs. Mexico ended the period on a 10-2 run to lead by two and wouldn’t trail for the rest of the half.
The Pirates began to settle for 3-pointers in the second quarter. Each shot from deep meant Brumbaugh was missing a post touch, and that led to Hannibal losing ground before half.
The second half brought some challenges on the offensive glass and transition defense for Mexico, something Pappas was excited to see his team handle so well when things got tight.
“I thought we overcame some adversity,” Pappas said. “We’re still a fairly young team with only three seniors. I’m proud of them for overcoming that. They showed a lot of grit tonight.”