Head coach Ed Costley's decision to change his team's lineup scheme coupled with his halftime talk for his girls to focus more on analyzing the floor in front of them paid dividends Friday for the Mexico varsity girls basketball team.
Trailing much of the game, the Lady Bulldogs bit into the Fulton defense to outscore their North Central Missouri Conference rival 26 to 6 in the final 11 minutes of play to come back and celebrate a 43-33 home triumph against the Hornets.
“In the first half our girls were too methodical in the manner they went about operating the offense in that they were too concerned about putting themselves into the right spot on the floor instead of moving the ball and reading what the defense was giving them,” Costley said. “We talked about that, and in the second half I thought the girls did a nice job reading the gaps of Fulton's defense to get the ball to where there was a better scoring opportunity.”
Logan Blevins, a 6'0 senior, scored Mexico's first points upon entering the new 2020 decade with her field goal just eight seconds following tip off.
Fulton led 8-6 to end a sluggish first quarter by both schools, and back-to-back threes drained by senior Alyssa Deuel to close the Hornets scoring before the half gave the Hornets an 18-15 edge at the break.
The Lady Hornets seemingly appeared to cruise toward victory when Sydney Hedgpath deflected a pass allowing Kayanna Gaines to scoop up the ball and dribble coast-to-cast for a layup. The junior guard scored her 12th point and what proved to be Gaines' final digit of the contest with 3:45 left in the third that extended Fulton's lead to 27-17.
“For much of the game our girls were flying around and contesting Mexico's shots to limit them to a one-and-done, while we were getting the kind of shots we wanted to take. We were boxing them out pretty good and limited their second chance opportunities,” said Fulton girls coach Dillan Brunk. “In the second half Mexico simply got hot in their shooting. That late run took away all the momentum from us.”
The scoring spurt by the Hornets prompted Mexico coach Costley to stop the bleeding by calling a time out. When play resumed, a different Lady Bulldogs lineup was found on Gary Filbert Court.
“We had a couple of girls that came off the bench to give the team a needed spark. Kaylee Jones hit a three from the wing and would get some deflections on passes that gave us possessions on that stretch, and we had Taylor Sherrow hit a three in the closing seconds of the third to cut our deficit to two and later she made some passes to get the ball to the right person,” said coach Costley. “We went with a small lineup to close out the game . I thought that gave Fulton some mismatches in their defensive style. We also flip-flopped some stuff with our press late in the game using our zone press and all of this turned into some quick points for us.”
A putback by 5'8 sophomore Mya Miller tied the score at 27 with 7:38 remaining. The repeat of that effort nearly two minutes later awarded Mexico (4-1, 2-1 NCMC) a 31-30 lead that they would not surrender .
Miller scored eight of her team-high 11 points in the fourth quarter and those points were part of an impressive 13-0 run that ended the decisive scoring rally.
“Mya is one of those kind of kids who just hustles all the time and goes out to find her own luck using her energy and determined effort,” Costley said. “She was a key part of that run. She put herself in the right spot to score those fourth quarter points from offensive rebounds or simply executing things correctly on offense.”
Sherrow finished with nine points. Blevins and Reghan Smith provided six and five points respectively for Mexico.
Fulton shot well from behind the arc making 8 of 20 threes and they made 4 of 6 free throws, but went 3-for-18 from the two.
The Lady Bulldogs shot 32 percent from the floor, including 12-for-30 on field goals, and made 10 of 16 attempts at the stripe.
Deuel was the second leading scorer behind Gaines for Fulton (2-6, 0-2 NCMC) as she dropped in a trio of threes for nine points.
Fulton will entertain Southern Boone of Ashland on Tuesday, while Mexico is off until Friday, Jan.10 when they host Eugene.