Hannibal remained within one point in the third quarter but ultimately lost to Kirksville 64-51 at Korf Gymnasium on Friday night.
Dezi Jones dazzled with an old-fashioned 3-point play that pulled Hannibal within one point of Kirksville in the second half of a North Central Missouri Conference game at Korf Gymnasium on Friday night.
The Pirates burst out of the locker room to cut the Tigers’ seven-point halftime lead to 33-32 with 6 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Unfortunately for Hannibal (6-12, 2-5 NCMC) and its electric homecoming crowd, conference-leader Kirksville (11-6, 6-0) reached another level from there on out to secure a 64-51 victory.
“When you have the best team in the conference on the ropes, it’s nice,” Hannibal coach Doug Coleman said. “It boils down to the little things. A rebound here, a screen there — executing the little plays. We didn’t do that in the key minutes at the end of that third quarter.”
Kirksville senior Lane Kephart scored 18 of his game-high 25 points in the second half to help the Tigers pull away. Tanner Schilling and Michael Chrisman each pitched in 14 points a piece for the Tigers.
Kirksville took a 47-39 lead into the fourth and outscored Hannibal 17-11 in the final period.
“Kephart and Schilling are really, really good scorers,” Coleman said. “They just understand when it’s their time to produce. They made baskets when it mattered.”
Hannibal kept pace with Kirksville for much of the first half. Jones netted a field goal with 1 minute, 38 seconds remaining in the first quarter to knot the contest at 12.
Kirksville surged to a 7-0 run midway through the second quarter to open up a 29-17 advantage, but Hannibal senior Trevor Watson and Jones each knocked home 3-pointers in the final minute of the first half to claw the Pirates back within 33-26.
While the second half didn’t go as planned for Hannibal, Coleman said there are more positives than negatives to take away from the contest.
When Hannibal and Kirksville faced off Dec. 6, the Tigers scored 75 points to rout the Pirates by 18 points. This time, Hannibal turned it up a notch on defense, Coleman said.
Offensively, Jones led the Pirates with 18 points and eight assists. Watson finished with 14 points, while Devias Douglas scored 12.
“At the beginning of the ballgame, it was about being courageous,” Coleman said. “We had a lot of threats tonight. We had the threat of losing at home with a big crowd. The threat of our three-game win streak coming to an end. I was so proud of our guys’ courage to overcome all that, keep working together, and we almost pulled off a phenomenal upset.”