MEXICO ROUNDUP: Boys, girls stumble in 2nd half vs Kirksville in home openers

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 12/17/22

Mexico boys unable to contain Kirksville duo in 83-71 loss

The Mexico boys knew what was in store Tuesday night in their home opener against Kirksville.

The Bulldogs went in with seven straight …

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MEXICO ROUNDUP: Boys, girls stumble in 2nd half vs Kirksville in home openers


Mexico boys unable to contain Kirksville duo in 83-71 loss

The Mexico boys knew what was in store Tuesday night in their home opener against Kirksville.

The Bulldogs went in with seven straight wins against the Tigers, with the most recent loss happening Jan. 31, 2020, on Mexico’s home court. Kirksville broke that streak behind 32-point performances from Isaac Danielson and Keaton Anderson and handed Mexico an 83-71 loss.

Mexico (5-2, 1-1 NCMC) had strong first and third quarters, scoring a combined 49 points but stumbled in the middle quarters, being outscored 41-22. After a nine-point first quarter, Anderson couldn’t be stopped as he scored 18 points and hit three of his four 3-pointers in the middle quarters, including a deep turnaround buzzer-beating shot to end the third quarter with Kirksville (4-1, 2-0 NCMC) ahead 56-40. Danielson hit two 3-pointers in the first quarter before scoring half of his points in the fourth quarter, finishing 18-for-20 from the free throw line along with four steals.

“Stopping Danielson, stopping Anderson, contesting Cole Kelly’s shots from the corner and keeping Camden Dempsay off the glass,” head coach Darren Pappas said. “It was all in the scouting report and I feel like we didn’t do a very good job of any of that tonight. We just got to do a better job of having that defensive mentality to come in and stop players or else those players like Anderson and Danielson are going to take advantage of it.”

Mexico had its big two scorers most of the night as Jordan Shelton and DJ Long each had a team-high 26 points. Long nailed three 3-pointers and came away with two steals while Shelton was a missile in transition, scoring 13 points and completing two 3-point plays in the fourth quarter. Long added to the last-ditch effort, scoring 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Before getting there, however, the Bulldogs were down 44-40 in the third quarter. They turned the ball over on three straight possessions that Kirksville morphed into a 7-0 run and 51-40 advantage with a minute left in the quarter. The run snowballed into a 16-2 run about two minutes deep into the fourth quarter, which is when the Bulldogs got going again offensively.

“I thought we played a very good first half, but in the second half, they put it to us,” Pappas said. “We didn’t respond very well. Maybe that’s partly youth — I don’t know — versus their veteran leadership. They were just capitalizing off our mistakes.”

Mexico and Kirksville were going back-and-forth in the first quarter as Long had a strong start with 10 points and Shelton took a couple transition buckets in his first minutes off the bench. The Bulldogs had a 6-0 run that was dampened all of a sudden by a Danielson 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The shots kept falling from the perimeter for Kirksville as Cole Kelly hit all of his three 3-pointers in the second quarter to eventually finish with 11 points.

Anthony Shivers, who was coming off a 29-point performance against Class 3 state-ranked Strafford late last Saturday night, knocked down a 3-pointer as part of his nine points.

The Tigers hit seven of their nine 3-pointers in the first half while the Bulldogs knocked down two in the half and four in the game. Anderson missed two free throws before putting back the second miss and then drained a 3-pointer to help give Kirksville a 39-32 halftime lead.

“We didn’t shoot it very well from the perimeter,” Pappas said. “They did a good job running their zone. We’re going to see a lot of zone — I have a feeling — from here on out.”

After Kirksville’s 17-8 third quarter and 56-40 lead heading into the fourth quarter, Shelton put back a miss to cut the deficit to 13 points at 70-57 with three minutes left and then 11 points at 76-65 with a minute remaining after capping a 3-point play.

The Tigers did take the ball away a fair amount and made sure the right player would get fouled. Mexico was in the penalty with just less than seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and were still trailing by double digits. Danielson rose to the challenge by knocking down 14-of-15 free throws in the final eight minutes.

“We were probably sped up a little bit, trying to shorten the deficit so much and trying to get quick buckets,” Pappas said. “I think we’d get a steal and try to rush it and score quickly. Instead, we’d just turn the ball over.

“They put the ball in their best shooter’s hands, and we had to foul him. It was now-or-never time in that fourth quarter so we tried to get up and press a little bit more and try to create some turnovers. We have to capitalize off those turnovers.”

Pappas said he would like to see players score more consistently behind Shelton and Long. Shivers has had a couple good scoring games, but struggles from the field prevented from that next one emerging Tuesday. Besides that, Mexico could run better offensively before Thursday’s game against North Central Missouri Conference foe Hannibal (3-3, 1-1 NCMC), winning 58-36, and today’s 8:30 p.m. contest against Class 5 North Point in the Gary Filbert Classic at the Mexico Sports Complex.

“We’ve got to be better prepared,” Pappas said. “It’s not like we didn’t have them prepared, but we got to do a better job of moving the basketball, moving without the basketball, making sure we are sharing the ball as much as possible and knocking down shots from the perimeter.”

Lady Bulldogs’ offense breaks down vs physical Kirksville defense in 49-39 loss

The Mexico girls were happy with their offense Tuesday in the first half, but that didn’t last long.

The Lady Bulldogs dropped their home opener to North Central Missouri Conference foe Kirksville 49-39 despite leading 19-16 at halftime. The Lady Tigers (2-3, 1-1 NCMC) held Mexico (3-5, 1-1 NCMC) to one field goal in the third quarter, using that to build a eight-point lead that was widened with some of seven 3-pointers.

Claire Hudson and Lexie Willer started their offensive games strong with 15 combined points. Hudson had eight points after going 6-for-6 — 8-for-8 for the game — from the free throw line, and Willer went to the rim aggressively for her seven points. Hudson finished with a game-high 18 points, Willer followed with nine points and Kenzie Taylor had seven points all in the fourth quarter.

“Kirksville turned up the pressure a little bit more on defense,” head coach Ed Costley said. “They got a little more aggressive and physical with us. We didn’t handle it a little bit and get where we needed to. Our spacing broke down on offense.”

Kirksville were led on offense and defense by Jada Jackson and Ellie Porter as they each finished with a team-high 14 points. Jackson scored 11 of her points in the middle quarters, and Porter scored eight points in the fourth quarter — going 4-for-4 at the free throw line.

On defense is where Jackson and Porter affected Mexico the most as the duo combined for seven of Kirksville’s eight steals. Jackson picked up one of those steals in the second quarter after hitting a 3-pointer to break a 7-0 Mexico run. She scored on a jumper on the other end.

“They were very pesky guarding,” Costley said. “On the other end, in the first half, I thought the defense did a good job of containing them on the dribble and keeping them off-balance. They got used to it, figured it out a little bit and got a little bit more flow. They started to use their dribble penetration to attack our gaps.”

Costley said Mexico was aware how well the Lady Tigers could shoot the ball as Channing Totta followed their top two scorers with three 3-pointers, and Paishynce Fouts knocked down a pair of deep shots. After what Jackson and Porter were able to do, the Lady Bulldogs then allowed more open looks from the perimeter.

“We were trying to stay wide to limit the 3-point looks,” Costley said. “Then they decided to attack the paint and make us have to collapse a little bit. That was the difference.”

When Kirksville stormed to an eight-point lead in the third quarter, taking its first lead 25-23 almost six minutes deep on a Fouts 3-pointer, Hudson was responsible for the only Mexico field goal as she hit a 3-pointer. She wasn’t done as she scored five more points in the fourth quarter.

This was after Taylor scored six points in the paint to cut Mexico’s deficit to single digits at 45-38 with a little more than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Kirksville had Lauren Fortney’s interior defense, finishing with nine rebounds and three blocks, so Mexico establishing an inside presence was important for every Lady Bulldog on the floor.

“Claire has got a little rhythm in things, and I thought she had some opportunities in transition she started to look for — attack the paint off the dribble,” Costley said. “A lot of that was Lexie Willer was making shots and being aggressive. When the two of them are being aggressive, it really helps us out and we’ve got to have that.

“Part of that was they have to worry a little bit about the post players. It was in that third quarter (with our spacing) we didn’t have an inside presence and nobody to go to. They were just coming at us. In that fourth quarter, we challenged our post player Kenzie Taylor, ‘You’ve got to make plays.’ The girls did a good job of finding her — a young player — she found a way to make some moves. She could make a difference for us on the inside and make it easy for our guards.”

Mexico went back on the road at Thursday to face conference foe Hannibal (5-2, 1-1), losing 51-44, before playing Class 2 No. 10 Harrisburg (6-2) at 6:45 p.m. in the Gary Filbert Classic at the Mexico Sports Complex.