Mexico boys' slow start leads to early 69-52 loss to rival Fulton for MoCo title

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 12/7/22

The Mexico boys had several thrilling comebacks three games deep into this season.

The Bulldogs worked themselves into too big of a hole Saturday night as they lost 69-52 to North Central …

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Mexico boys' slow start leads to early 69-52 loss to rival Fulton for MoCo title


The Mexico boys had several thrilling comebacks three games deep into this season.

The Bulldogs worked themselves into too big of a hole Saturday night as they lost 69-52 to North Central Missouri Conference rival Fulton in the Montgomery County Basketball Tournament championship game. The Hornets spoiled Mexico’s attempt at repeating as tournament champions following Mexico’s 73-61 victory in last season’s title game.

Mexico (3-1) was held to its lowest point total at halftime so far this season as it trailed 28-13 at the break and ended up allowing its most points as well. The Bulldogs had already beaten Fatima on the road after trailing by seven going into the fourth quarter and came back Thursday to defeat Hermann despite being down 10 points at halftime.

Head coach Darren Pappas felt the struggles on the defensive end loomed larger and played a bigger role in Mexico falling behind 12-0 in the first quarter. Pappas said Mexico was aware of the scoring threats for Fulton (4-0) and thought the game plan wasn’t any different against the Hornets this time, but the execution wasn’t there.

“Defensively, we didn’t do a very good job of closing down gaps,” Pappas said. “Getting backside help on their big. We knew (Colby) Lancaster’s a load so it was going to be tough anyway. Rotations were a little slow.”

Jordan Shelton led the Bulldogs with 28 points, seven steals and two blocks, scoring 20 of his points in the second half. Jaydon Eldridge knocked down four 3-pointers for 12 points, and PJ Perkins led Mexico with nine rebounds. For Fulton, Walker Gohring had 24 points and 16 rebounds, Lancaster had 20 points, five rebounds and a block, Donovan Weigel finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and five blocks, and Rowdy Gohring had 11 points and three 3-pointers.

Shelton and the Bulldogs showed no quit in the fourth quarter despite going into the fourth quarter down 44-24. After Lancaster laid in an early bucket, Shelton answered right back with a 3-pointer prior to vigorously pushing the ball in transition to attack the rim. Pappas said it was a great effort and was an example of the “senior leadership” Mexico has, but he would like to see Mexico be more balanced offensively.

“We need other guys to step up around him,” Pappas said. “We got to find that second, third and fourth scorers. I always want to try to get four guys in double figures and want to get that as much as possible. We’re a young ballclub with a lot of inexperienced varsity guys, and hopefully, we can grow and develop quicker.”

DJ Long went into Saturday averaging 23.3 points per game in three games but finished with two points against Fulton, knocking down a jumper in the third quarter. Pappas said Long just couldn’t get into a rhythm but is confident he will and the other Bulldogs will learn from it as it is just one game. Long joined Shelton on the all-tournament team along with Montgomery County’s Clayton Parker, Hermann’s Parker Anderson, and Fulton’s Walker Gohring and Lancaster, who was also the MVP.

Mexico’s shots from outside, inside and in transition didn’t fall early as Fulton stormed to a 15-4 first-quarter lead behind 3-pointers from the Gohring brothers.

“We dug ourselves in a hole early,” Pappas said. “You can’t do that against veteran ballclubs. They’re a veteran team, so we can’t be doing that.”

Eldridge was the first Bulldog to score besides Shelton after hitting a 3-pointer almost three minutes into the second quarter. Lancaster started being a problem in the post for Fulton as he registered seven points and a block by halftime.

“They’ve got shooters that spread you out, and (Lancaster’s) such a load that he draws so much attention,” Pappas said. “If you draw too much attention to him, you’re going to leave somebody open. You’ve got to kind of pick your poison. Are you going to play inside and leave the perimeter open or are you going to try to guard the perimeter and leave the inside open? We’re going to go back to the film and look at it and see what’s the better approach. Luckily, we’ll see them two more times in conference.”

Mexico was within 11 points in the third quarter until Rowdy Gohring nailed a 3-pointer and Weigel scored in the post to halt a potential run. Weigel also picked up two blocks and an offensive putback within a matter of seconds.

The Bulldogs were still fighting in the fourth quarter as they cut Fulton’s lead to 52-38 after three free throws from Perkins, 58-46 after an Eldridge 3-pointer and 60-49 following another Eldridge bomb from deep that was set up by Shelton’s kick-out pass from deep in the post. Eldridge drained three of his 3-pointers in the fourth quarter.

“I felt like we didn’t get out in transition and run like we did in the second half when we ended up attacking the angles to the rim like we wanted to in the first half,” Pappas said.

Mexico opened its conference schedule Tuesday at Marshall before the Class 4 No. 6 Bulldogs face Class 3 No. 3 Strafford (3-0) at 10 p.m. Saturday in Springfield as part of an event called 48 Hours of Basketball Springfield hosted at Greenwood Laboratory School.


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