The Mexico Bulldogs had a brilliant two-pronged attack Tuesday night against the Helias Crusaders.
During the first quarter - the only period when the Bulldogs seemed to miss any shots - they made up for any misses by dominating the offensive boards.
In the three quarters after that, Mexico put on a shooting clinic and rolled to a 60-48 win at Rackers Fieldhouse.
"They outplayed us in every phase of the game," Helias coach Josh Buffington said simply after the contest.
The Bulldogs, ranked sixth in the state in Class 4, made just 3-of-11 shots from the field in the opening quarter. But they grabbed six of their eight offensive rebounds in that stanza, helping them emerge with an 11-10 lead.
"Even on the possessions where we did defend well, we didn't rebound the basketball that gave them extra confidence on the offensive end."
After that, Mexico rarely missed again. The Bulldogs made 19-of-29 shots (66 percent) over the final three quarters on their way to making 22-of-42 (52 percent) for the game.
"The reason they shot such a high percentage is we let them play to their strengths, individually and as a team," Buffington said. "We let them run their stuff, we didn't force them to do anything they weren't comfortable doing when they had the basketball."
The game effectively ended in the first seven minutes of the second quarter. Helias went just 1-of-11 from the field to start the frame, while Mexico countered by going 7-of-9. That helped the Bulldogs push the lead to 11 points twice in the quarter before they took a 26-17 lead into the locker room.
"We shot a poor percentage mainly because our shot selection was bad," said Buffington, whose team saw its seven-game winning streak come to an end. "We were playing passive offensively and weren't attacking the rim enough.
"As of late, the one reason we've seen success is because of the way we've been executing offensively. It just seemed like we were a step or two slow, and why, I don't know. We'll try to figure it out (today) at practice."
The Bulldogs led by as many as 16 points in the third quarter, and the edge was 40-26 heading into the fourth.
The Crusaders finally hit some shots in that final period, as Dylan Gish scored all 10 of his points in the frame. Hale Hentges, who led all players with 18 points, had nine of them in the stanza.
Helias never got any closer than nine points down the stretch, the first time on a 3 by Gish and the second time on two free throws from the senior, who started his first game since returning from the second of two ACL tears to his right knee.
Jake Willer paced the Bulldogs (17-3) with 17 points, while Jake Anderson was close behind with 16. Jon Anderson chipped in with 13 and Jaeon Nunnelly had 11.
The Anderson brothers almost outrebounded Helias by themselves, as Jake had 11 and Jon added nine. Helias had just 22 as a team.
"Not only did we have trouble on the defensive boards, but we had trouble on the offensive boards," Buffington said. "We had just four offensive rebounds on the night. That makes it a lot tougher on the shooter when he gets a perimeter jumper, knowing we might not get it back. That's our fault. The plan was to crash three or four and we were crashing one to one-and-a-half guys at most."
The Crusaders will face another stiff test in their next contest. They'll host Hickman, the top-ranked team in Class 5, at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"We've been looking forward to this week all season long," Buffington said. "It's a challenging week for us, two ranked opponents.
"Now we get ready to play the No. 1 team in Class 5 in Hickman, a different style, different personnel. We've got to be ready to play on both ends of the floor. It will be a great test for us. We'll see what our guys are made of."
In Tuesday's JV game, Helias notched a 61-54 victory. Sam Husting and Chase Bexten had 14 points apiece for the Crusaders (16-3).