In a that game featured seven lead changes, two ties, and having neither team to garner a lead by more than two possessions after the first four minutes following tip off, Mexico was fortunate to have the last possession with 16 seconds remaining Friday on its home court while trailing Fulton by one.
Eight seconds later, Bulldog boys coach Darren Pappas called a time out to draw up what he believed would be the best winning option for his team to execute while knowing what Fulton was going to throw at them defensively.
Pappas' expectations held true. The Bulldogs literally fell into that trap, and it was game over.
Mexico's Michael White was given the task to throw-in the ball from the sidelines just beyond the top of the key finding sophomore Isaiah Reams to set the wheels in motion.
However, Reams would only release one dribble before the point guard was smothered by a pair of Hornet players having no clear window opportunity to deliver the ball elsewhere.
“We were expecting Fulton to come out to play a zone and we were expecting them to want to try and trap us so we wanted to execute a quick screen against their zone. We wanted to get the ball to Isaiah because he's our point guard and best ball handler as we had a play designed involving him that we thought would be one to give us a good chance to score,” Mexico boys coach Darren Pappas. “Fulton trapped and collapsed on him quickly. We did not get anyone up there to help him. Fulton got their hands on the ball, and we turned it over to end the game.”
Mexico would ring in the new 2020 year absorbing a tough 59-58 loss on Jan. 3 to their North Central Missouri Conference rival.
Freshman Courtland Simmons led all scorers with 19 points for Fulton (4-4, 2-2 NCMC). Seniors Tyler Sayler and John Adams each provided 11 points, and Camden Moore had seven.
Mexico boys led 14-13 after the first quarter, and trailed Fulton 33-31 at halftime.
The Bulldogs (2-6, 2-1 NCMC) regained the lead 48-45 to close out the third quarter when Raef Yager pulled down a defensive rebound and the Mexico junior dribbled the length of the court in about six seconds to score off the glass at 0:02 to deliver Mexico a 48-45 advantage to open up the final segment.
But during those last eight minutes of play, the Bulldogs were hard-pressed to find gaps in Fulton's 1-3-1 zone to get the basketball to players there were open and carry out its mission.
Mexico crashed the offensive glass hard, allowing more second chance scoring opportunities, but the Bulldogs fell short on capitalizing on such efforts. The home team would make 23 of 50 field goal attempts and went 6-for-8 at the stripe, but Mexico dropped in just 2 of 14 threes in the game.
Meanwhile, Fulton shot 55 percent from the field (21-38) and knock down 4 of 16 shots from behind the arc, and the Hornets made 5 of 8 free throws.
“We were not very good on the boards tonight. Especially on the defensive side to where there were times that we were fighting our own teammates for a rebound and this led to some turnovers as well,” Pappas said. “We missed a lot of shots around the basket and missed several putback shots too that played a factor. Defensively there were times in our zone where we got lost in our rotations, and Fulton would hit some big shots from the outside.”
Senior Zach Watkins and sophomore Drew Blevins scored 16 and 14 points respectively in a losing effort for Mexico. Yager finished with nine points and Reams had seven. Meanwhile, White and Ty Prince each added four points, and two points were chipped in by Evan Heaton and Jake Haines.
Mexico will look to end its five-game losing skid next Friday when they host Eugene High School.
“It was close. Our effort and energy level was pretty good. We had our chances to pull out a win,” Pappas said. “I'll look closely at game film to better learn certain areas that we need to correct and improve on, and we'll address those things next week to become a better team.”
Fulton plays host to Southern Boone of Ashland on Tuesday.