If it wasn’t for a bad third quarter, the Hannibal boys’ basketball team might have knocked off undefeated Mexico Friday night, but unfortunately for the Pirates, that wasn’t the case as they lost 59-48 in their home opener.
“We have got a lot of new faces on this group,” Hannibal coach Matt Pugh said. “We have a lot of new varsity minute guys and they are kind of just getting their feet wet playing varsity. It is a learning process and there is a learning curve there where you are learning how to handle a lead and maintain it.”
Mexico opened with a 6-0 lead, but Hannibal answered right back with a 7-0 run to take the lead. Each team traded a pair of buckets to put Hannibal up 11-10 before the Bulldogs tied the game at 11-11 on a free throw. But with time expiring in the first quarter, Dalton Powell hit a three-pointer to give Hannibal a 14-11 lead.
The Pirates extended that lead to 19-11 before Mexico closed the gap to 19-16 with 5:24 left in the second quarter. However, the Pirates answered right back with an 11-2 run on three treys and a pair of free throws. The Bulldogs’ only bucket during that time was the first of two dunks from Mexico’s Jon Anderson.
With 3:31 left in the first half, the Pirates held a 12-point lead over Mexico. But it didn’t last.
“I felt like in the first half we played with a pretty good pace offensively,” Pugh said. “That is something we have really focused on in the last few practices, playing the offense with a better pace and more movement. Quicker ball reversal and more ball reversal and things like that.”
Mexico closed out the second quarter with a 7-0 run, including a half court buzzer-beating trey from Cole Jaramillo to cut Hannibal’s lead to 30-25 at the intermission.
The third quarter is where it all fell apart for the Pirates. Anderson produced his second dunk of the game to open the half and Hannibal countered with a free throw from Lijah Harrison with 5:56 left in the quarter. From that point on, the third quarter belonged to the Bulldogs.
“It was a tough game,” Harrison said. “We went through a stretch of the game where we were doing all right, but the third quarter was a little shaky for us. They found a way to score and we weren’t putting in our numbers.”
Over the next six minutes, the Bulldogs produced a 13-2 run. Mexico went on to outscore Hannibal 15-3 in the third quarter and took a 42-33 lead into the final eight minutes.
“We just couldn’t score,” Pugh said. “For whatever reason, I don’t know. But, I felt like we got away from running our stuff for a little bit.”
The Pirates didn’t give up though.
“We had gotten ourselves down in that fourth quarter and we were trying to fight our way back,” Harrison said. “Mexico is a good team and they maintained the lead. We got down, but we almost came back.”
Hannibal kept close to Mexico in the fourth quarter even though the Bulldogs outscored them 17-15. With 2:49 left in the game, the Pirates got within four points (48-44) of Mexico following a Harrison jump shot and a Dalton Powell trey. But that was as close as the Pirates would get. Mexico would control the game the rest of the way, outscoring Hannibal 11-4 over the final 2:24.
Powell led the Pirates in scoring with 15 points while Harrison was the only other Hannibal shooter to record double figures with 11. Eight of Harrison’s points came in the fourth quarter. Mitch Nichols chipped in 8 points while Eric Hugenberg contributed six.
“We have different weapons we can use,” Harrison said. “That helps out a lot because if one is not hitting one night, another person can step up. If we are all not working as a team, then it just isn’t going to work.”
Pugh was pleased with Harrison’s performance.
“Lijah is a kid that has a great motor,” Pugh said. “I am very very proud of him and we are very fortunate to have a kid like him in our program and on our team. He is going to give you everything he has got every single night and every single minute that he is on the floor.”
Defensively, Hannibal did win the rebound game as the Pirates came up with 30 rebounds to Mexico’s 25. Freshman Dylan Powell pulled down a game-high 9 boards while Dalton finished with 8 rebounds for the Pirates.
“That is something that we know we have to do,” Pugh said. “We can’t give teams second and third opportunities. Each trip down the floor we have to give them one shot.”
Hannibal will look to shake the loss as the Pirates travel to John Wood Community College today to play in the Rumble on the River.
“This group will bounce back,” Pugh said. “We haven’t been blown out yet. We haven’t got railroaded or hammered and that is a testament to these kids and their character.”