Missed free throws have been a recurring sour spot for the Hannibal girls basketball team this season.
Kaylee Falconer changed that narrative Tuesday.
The sophomore came through at the line to help the Lady Pirates secure a 40-36 win over Mexico in a North Central Missouri Conference game inside Korf Gymnasium.
Falconer, who scored a game-high 14 points, was fouled for a 1-and-1 opportunity with Hannibal clinging to a two-point lead with 4.7 seconds remaining.
“I was really nervous, but then the first one hit the front rim and rolled in,” explained Falconer, who proceeded to swish the second. “I missed my first free throws of the night, but I knew I had to knock these down. It was a pretty great relief.”
Mexico misfired on a three as time expired.
Hannibal made just 12 of 20 free-throw attempts overall but converted 6 of 8 in the fourth.
“Free throws have really been a backbreaker for us at times, and it was good to see our girls knock them down when they really counted,” Lady Pirates coach Ben Jamerson said.
Hannibal (7-17, 3-9 NCMC) closed on a 12-2 run over the final seven minutes, coming from behind to earn its first victory in the past seven games.
The Lady Pirates exacted revenge against the same Lady Bulldogs (11-12, 6-5) who previously defeated them by 26-plus points on two different occasions this season.
Taylor Sherrow scored from close range to give Mexico a 34-28 lead 15 seconds into the final period.
That proved to be the Lady Bulldogs final field goal.
Keri Bareis drove through the lane for Hannibal for a bucket with 2:49 remaining to tie the score at 36.
After Abby Baumann corralled her game-high 13th rebound to give Hannibal possession, Emma Deien pulled up for a short jumper with 50 seconds left to give the hosts a 38-36 lead.
Mexico turned the ball over on its next possession before fouling Falconer, who had made just 4 of 8 from the line up until that point.
Falconer made Mexico pay by making both free throws for the final two points of the game.
“The fourth quarter, they just came back at us and we seemed like we didn't have much energy left,” Mexico coach Ed Costley said. “We were settling too much and missed a lot of shots. We didn't get stops defensively.”
Hannibal trailed 10-4 after the first quarter as the teams combined for just two made field goals over the first eight minutes of play.
Baumann sank a pair of foul shots to knot the score at 14 with 2:44 remaining in the first half before Falconer posted up and scored in the paint to give Hannibal its first lead.
Autumn Bigsby then knocked down a shot from the short corner for Hannibal. Moments later, her rebound led to a bucket by Baumann to give the Lady Pirates a 20-16 halftime lead.
Mexico shot just 3-for-32 (9 percent) from the field in the first half.
“We just didn't score to get into our press defense,” Costley said of what was different playing Hannibal this time around. “We never had much time and opportunity to set that up. They did a better job handling our zone defenses and attacking and getting more cuts toward the basket.”
Mexico responded out the intermission to score the first 12 points of the third quarter.
Hannibal committed five turnovers in the first 3:15 of the second half.
Raigan Playter capped the spree for Mexico by making a shot from the elbow with 3:38 left in the third to put the Lady Bulldogs ahead 28-20.
Bigsby and Deien connected for threes in the period to help Hannibal weather the storm entering the fourth.
Aided by airtight defense in the final period, Hannibal allowed its second-lowest point total in a game this season.
“Anytime we can hold a team below 40 we're going to have a chance to win, and that's what we did,” Jamerson said.
Baumann and Bigsby each scored five points in the win.
Logan Blevins led Mexico with nine points.