In order to be sure every boys and girls team participating in the two-day Licking Basketball Camps last Thursday and Friday in Mexico received the five scrimmages they were promised before starting the tournament, contests took place at the start of the second day from 9:00 a.m.-12:45 p.m.
After that it was a single-elimination free-for-all that featured a varsity and sub-varsity bracket that began for the Mexico varsity with a victory over Southern Boone 47-43.
"We're only one game in, but all the teams are going to be very, very competetive. We've got to make sure we get after it on the defensive end," said Mexico varsity boys basketball coach Darren Pappas. "We played two really good games this morning against Southern Boone and Spokane. We actually play Spokane in the second round at 3:00 p.m. If we win that game we'll be in the championship. Guys are getting better on the offensive and defensive end, but it's not exactly where we want it yet."
In other action Mexico Two, which was mainly composed of JV guys, defeated the Russellville JV 37-7. The Indians were coached by Kevin Bissmeyer. In 2017-18 Bissmeyer was the Varsity Boys Basketball Coach/Athletic Director for the Missouri Military Academy.
"We've got three teams playing today. We've played six games so far. It's been a long two days. We're improving and seeing where guys are at, offensively and defensively," Pappas said. "Defensively as a unit we're finding out where we're at. We're tired, but we're going to have to fight through that. We all know the run through the North Central Missouri Conference is a rough one. You can get beat on any given night. These types of days like we've seen yesterday and today will get us through the season."
Because one boys team was unable to make it for day two and the brackets had to be balanced, the Bulldogs were forced to create a squad from players who weren't already playing in the tourney and that roster became known as Mexico Three. As for that teams fate, it eventually lined up against the Basehor Linwood JV in tournament competition and was eliminated 59-29.
"We're starting to see who are core group is at the varsity level, as well as some guys on the JV who could possibly give us some spot minutes on the varsity level," said Pappas. "There are some guys on the Freshman team who might possibly play JV, so we're getting a good idea where the pieces are going to start falling into the puzzle and hopefully it's going to work out for the 2018-19 campaign. This is our last thing for the whole summer, our last big hurrah."
Now that this event is complete, so is the Bulldogs boys basketball team for the summer. The rest of the break will be spent by these athletes getting ready for things like football and cross country season.
"We give them the month of July off to focus on football. That's for football season or cross country or whatever the guys are involved in," Pappas said. "The guys that aren't involved in a fall sport, we'll start our preseason workouts in September, getting their bodies in shape lifting weights and things like that and working on our skill development. By the time November rolls around we'll start getting into the nuts and bolts of our offense."
In that next game against Spokane, with assistant coach Dion Nunnelly by his side, Pappas and the Mexico varsity played things incredibly tight right up until the very end. The Bulldogs even got the ball back down 34-33 with 1.2 seconds left to play, but their final shot was blocked and that's how they were eliminated from the tournament. Nunnelly also coached Mexico Two to that 30-point win over the Russellville JV.
"The group I'm coaching, I love it. They're self motivated. That makes it easy on me. They're mostly ninth and 10th graders. They're working like a team already and the season hasn't even started," said Nunnelly. "That was out first tournament game. Our next contest will be against the winner of the Mexico Junior High and Spokane JV game. We'll be rooting for Mexico, but we'd rather face Spokane so there's no internal animocity."
When it comes to that matchup, the Bulldogs Junior High team, coach by varsity assistant Brendan Schafer, was simply overmatched and lost 44-27. Schafer also coached Mexico Three in its defeat to the Basehor Linwood JV.
"I was really impressed with the middle schoolers and how hard they worked. We've got a lot of guards at the eighth grade level and they were hitting their shots. They'll be able to hit a lot of three's throughout the year, so they should be fun to watch once the season starts," said Schafer. "(In regards to this tournament game) I liked that they didn't quit. They were playing ninth, 10th, 11th graders, and going into it they knew that would be the case. We played them yesterday and got beat pretty good."
One component to this event many people discussed regarding the future is that not only would they like to see it return, but with that they'd also like to see it grow in scope and span. That way, if more teams from further away chose to participate, that just might lead to greater revenue brought to the area for local businesses.
"This camp is supposed to be back. Coach (Ed) Costley and coach Pappas did a real nice job getting this camp here this year. It's a good event and I hope it continues," Schafer said. "We worked hard, set good screens, took care of the basketball and rebounded. (If I could do anything differently) I'd probably sub a little more. Use a little more rotation and see who works well together."
Some of the other boys varsity teams competing at this event included Brashear and North Callaway. In the boys varsity championship game Basehor Linwood defeated Spokane 43-19.
"These younger guys only had two hours to prepare for this event. We had two practices that were an hour a piece," Schafer said. "I'd like to get a few more of those in so they know what defense to run and things like that."