BOONVILLE — The Boonville boys basketball team has had its share of battles over the years against Mexico.
Although it has only been two years since Boonville joined the Tri-County Conference, its game Monday night against Mexico was very similar to the previous 10 years when the Pirates played in the North Central Missouri Conference.
Except during that span, the Bulldogs won more times than not.
With both teams similar in styles offensively, Boonville head coach Mark Anderson admitted after the game that his team may not get any style points, but a win is a win.
The Pirates won a hard-fought game against the Bulldogs 59-53 to improve to 10-2 overall. Mexico falls to 3-8.
“We were trying to play fast and trying to press, but I guess we were playing a little too fast,” Anderson said. “Even though Mexico doesn’t have a good record, they have been in a lot of close games and it’s a team that plays the style and is comfortable playing the way we play. You like to rack up wins. We would have liked more style points tonight, but a good team finds a way to win when you don’t play your best, and I thought that’s kind of what we did.”
Of its 11 games thus far this season, Mexico has dropped five by six points or less.
Bulldogs coach Darren Pappas said he had that eerie feeling again Monday.
“We’ve been in every ballgame except for the first game against Centralia, and they beat us by 30,” Pappas said. “We’ve even had the lead in several games and then just lost them late. A lot of people say that is a sign of youth on a team; we are fairly young with only one senior starting and another one coming off the bench. But we are going to stay after it and at some point our time is coming and we know that.”
Anderson was glad that time wasn’t against his Pirates, especially after an emotional loss three days earlier against Blair Oaks.
With two more games scheduled this week, Anderson said Boonville couldn’t afford back-to-back losses. But Boonville led by just two after the first eight minutes and 30-26 at the break.
In a game with a lot of running up and down the floor, Boonville and Mexico each owned six-point leads at some point. The Pirates led 12-6 after a basket by senior Tramell Coleman with 2:15 left in the first. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, held a 20-14 advantage at the 4:44 mark in the second quarter after a basket by junior Raef Yager.
The first half also featured three ties and five lead changes.
Pappas said the Bulldogs were really, really close in the first half.
“Had a couple of balls bounced a different way and we keep them off the glass, maybe it’s a different ballgame,” Pappas said. “But the effort was there all night and you can’t thank the guys enough for playing hard the entire 32 minutes.”
Anderson also had a choice to make whether to switch from man to zone. But after talking it over with his assistants, he decided Boonville would keep the status quo.
“It’s probably a wash in terms of what we got and what we gave up,” Anderson said. “We gave up too much easy stuff. We took away some of that in the second half but then still kind of gave up some direct drives that I’m not crazy about.”
With the teams combining for 56 points in the first half, Boonville and Mexico each had several nice runs in the first 16 minutes. The Pirates reeled off seven straight during a minute and a half stretch in the first quarter and an 8-0 run late in the second period. As for Mexico, it opened the second quarter with eight straight points.
Boonville found a way to gain separation in the third quarter by outscoring Mexico 16-12 to extend its lead to eight at 46-38.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to six on two different occasions in the third quarter and had it down to three in the fourth. But each time Mexico would get close, Boonville answered with either a 3-pointer or free throw.
Mexico held a 15-13 advantage in the final period.
Despite the win, Anderson said he didn’t think his team talked very well on defense.
“I thought there were a few times where we let guys get open because one guy was switching and the other guy wasn’t, and that may have been fatigue,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t crazy about how we guarded tonight. This definitely wasn’t one of our better defensive efforts.”
Pappas, on the other hand, was happy with his team’s play on the defensive end. The ball just didn’t bounce the Bulldogs’ way, he said.
“You can’t say enough about what we are offensively and defensively, we just haven’t been able to get over this hump and put teams away when we could,” Pappas said.
D.J. Wesolak led eight players in scoring for Boonville with 15 points. Charlie Bronakowski tossed in 13.
For Mexico, Yager finished with 15 and Zach Watkins netted 13.