Mexico girls lose to quick Clopton 61-30 after first win

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

The Mexico girls clinched their first win of the 2022-23 season on Wednesday but had to get refocused quick.

Quick was the key term Friday night as No. 3 seed Mexico lost 61-30 to No. 4 Clopton in …

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Mexico girls lose to quick Clopton 61-30 after first win

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The Mexico girls clinched their first win of the 2022-23 season on Wednesday but had to get refocused quick.

Quick was the key term Friday night as No. 3 seed Mexico lost 61-30 to No. 4 Clopton in the consolation championship game in the Montgomery County Basketball Tournament. The Lady Bulldogs finished sixth after losing to Wellsville-Middletown 39-25 on Monday and then defeating North Central Missouri Conference rival Fulton 42-29 two days later.

Clopton (3-1) came away with 14 steals and opened up a 36-17 lead at halftime that gradually grew bigger. Head coach Ed Costley said Mexico (1-3) was having issues with Clopton’s full-court press defense and the skill the Lady Hawks had.

“Their speed was much quicker on the floor, and they’re quicker than us. We know that as a matter of fact,” Costley said. “We knew that was one of the biggest concerns, being able to handle their pressure and their speed.”

Clopton had four girls finish in double figures including Tinleigh Spoonster and Braya Smith each with 13 points and five combined steals, Shana Yates with 12 points and four steals, and Madelyn Brune with 11 points. Lexie Willer led Mexico with eight points and four steals, Claire Hudson followed with five points and two steals, Kenzie Taylor had four points and four rebounds, and Kierstan Epperson had four points off the bench.

Smith knocked down a jumper to make 8-0 Clopton in the first quarter to force an early Mexico timeout, but the Lady Hawks were just getting started. Willer broke up the run only for Clopton to share the ball effectively on a 9-0 run broken up by Jo Thurman. Yates knocked down her two 3-pointers in the first half while being effective from midrange.

“Even on the defensive end for us, we knew we had some mismatch issues,” Costley said. “They went five guards a few times, and we just weren’t able to guard them. Yates was a big concern, and she was hard to keep out of the paint and she’s good off the dribble.”

Clopton led 19-4 after the first quarter and increased the lead to 24-8 with about 5:30 left in the second quarter thanks to the bench contributions from Spoonster, who added seven points in the quarter to her six points in the first quarter. Mexico’s offense tried to find places where a Lady Hawk wasn’t, heaving errant passes or just missing open teammates behind the defense.

After three quarters, Clopton carried a 48-28 lead into the fourth quarter, but Costley said Mexico started keeping up with the Lady Hawks after bringing in a smaller lineup that included Kenley Jones. The vision of Willer and contributions from Taylor, Epperson and Kylie Burnett helped Clopton only outscore Mexico 12-11 in the third quarter.

“We went to a four out and one post player, and went smaller at times,” Costley said. “Part of it was what our pressure was able to do, and we had some players on the floor we were able to get up and pressure. Kenley Jones came in, and she is one player we know that she can defend the ball and changes how we can work on the back side.

“Lexie is really coming to understand how to create. She still needs to look to score a little bit more on those drives, but she is starting to find those players on the back side. Some from our bench — Kenzie Taylor and Kylie Burnett — those two came off the bench and gave us some good minutes. Kylie looked much more comfortable for us, and Kenzie Taylor had some great offensive rebounds and some putbacks. We got to have more of a threat in the post and someone has to be there, and Kierstan came up with some big buckets for us.”

Mexico opened its conference schedule Tuesday at Marshall before facing Class 5 Hillcrest (0-3) at noon Sunday in Springfield 48 Hours of Basketball Springfield hosted at Greenwood Laboratory School.

Lady Bulldogs open big lead early vs rival Fulton in 42-29 victory

Prior to any North Central Missouri Conference game, Mexico notched a victory against Fulton.

The Lady Bulldogs defeated their rival 42-29 in a consolation bracket game Wednesday during the Montgomery County Basketball Tournament.

Mexico was led by 11 points from Jo Thurman, Claire Hudson followed with 10 points, Messiah Simpson had eight points and Lexie Willer finished with six points. Thurman knocked down two of Mexico’s four 3-pointers.

For Fulton, Kier Henderson led with 10 points, hitting two 3-pointers.

Three of Mexico’s makes from beyond the arc helped the Lady Bulldogs build an 18-4 lead after one quarter prior to Mexico leading 30-14 at halftime and 35-21 after the third quarter.

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