MEXICO — The Mexico varsity boys basketball team pulled away early and didn’t look back Tuesday evening as it notched a home win over Hannibal, 63-52.
The Tigers exploded out of the gate on both sides of the ball, jumping out to a 25-12 lead by the end of the first quarter. That high-octane offense was much-thanks to senior guard Buddy Ruby, who led all scorers with a career-high 32 points, 16 of which came in the first quarter.
When asked what was working offensively in the first quarter, Mexico coach Paul Callaghan simply said “him (Ruby) making shots.”
The tone was set from the first possession. After Mexico won the opening tip-off, Ruby hit his first basket, a 3-pointer, seconds into the game. Hannibal was then held to shot clock violations on its first two possessions. That contributed to the 12 turnovers the Warriors racked up in the first half.
Although Mexico was able to maintain a 35-19 lead at halftime, production for both teams slowed down in the second quarter. Hannibal scored seven points in that quarter and Mexico scored 10.
“I think in the first half we just kind of came out flat,” Hannibal coach Mat Burridge said. “We didn’t really bring the intensity; we didn’t match their intensity. They came out really ready to go in front of a big crowd tonight and we didn’t match it until the second half.”
Indeed, the second half went differently. Hannibal was able to outscore Mexico by five points in the second-half totals.
But that was not enough.
Despite going on a 9-0 run late in the third and cutting the lead down to six at one point, the Tigers stayed a step ahead until the clock hit all zeros.
“At halftime, we made a few adjustments. They were being physical so we wanted to spread them out a little bit and see if we could get some of those calls. Some of the calls didn’t go our way,” Burridge said. “We were getting the spacing out and finding the guys and getting to the spots we wanted to get to instead of them taking it away.”
Hannibal’s Jack Smith led the team in scoring with 19 and James Somers contributed 17 as well, Zach Shortslef racked up 11 and Austin Calkins and Jake Powell combined for five. No other players scored in the game for the Warriors.
Other than Ruby, no player from Mexico reached a double-digit point total. The backcourt of Ruby and two brothers Noah Hiller, a senior, and Ryan Hiller, the lone varsity freshman from Mexico, were able to spread the floor and keep the defense on its toes, especially in the first half.
“The good thing is we’ve got three guards who can all handle the ball,” Callaghan said. “So you’re going to have a really hard time pressuring us, you’re going to have a hard time trapping us.”
Callaghan said he almost exclusively plays a man-to-man defensive set, which Ruby said he felt confident about coming into the game.
“We know that they go one-on-one at the top and they just attack everything,” Ruby said. “So we just tried to get in front of them, show on the screens and I think that cut out their pressure on the inside.”
The Tigers wrapped up their regular season and will now await the sectional tournament. The Warriors host North Rose-Wolcott this Saturday at noon.