Emma Deien exploded for a career-high 22 points to help the Hannibal girls basketball team beat Kirksville 51-44 on Thursday night.

Ben Jamerson directed his Hannibal girls basketball players to work on nothing but shooting for the full length of a practice leading into their final game of the calendar year.

The Lady Pirates worked together to score 1,000 points through different drills their coach planned.

When game day arrived, Emma Deien didn't stop.

The sophomore exploded for a career-high 22 points Thursday to help Hannibal to a 51-44 victory over North Central Missouri Conference rival Kirksville at Korf Gymnasium.

“When you feel it, you've got to keep shooting,” Deien said. 

Deien made four of her first seven shots from the field to deliver 16 points in the opening half. In a night filled with 42 fouls, the forward made good on 8 of 13 from the free-throw line, including three in the final minute to close out the win. 

“When you attack, you draw fouls and then you just get to shoot,” Deien said. “Our mindset is always to keep attacking and not give up.”

The Lady Pirates were in front from start to finish but never grew their lead larger than 11. 

Deien got her big night started with an old-fashioned 3-point play as part of an early 11-2 run that put the hosts ahead 15-11 through the first quarter. 

“That's been our MO all season,” Jamerson said. “Getting to the basket, drawing contact, going to the free-throw line and knocking those down, and everything just starts to flow from there.”

The sophomore got a three to rattle home with 6:59 remaining in the first half to go up seven before adding another later in the period for a 29-21 halftime lead.

Kaylee Falconer and Keri Bareis joined the fun for consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter to turn a five-point advantage into a 36-25 lead with 4 minutes, 36 seconds left in the period. 

But Kirksville pulled back within five with three minutes remaining in the fourth as Hannibal was forced to navigate around foul trouble.

Three Lady Pirates finished the game with at least four fouls. Abby Baumann fouled out in the second half after being a strong presence with 10 rebounds.

“We had so many people with foul trouble so we had to be more careful with whatever we were doing,” Deien admitted. “Lots of times we were rushing things and we just needed to slow it down. It was hard to keep our heads and stay calm, and that's how they chipped away there.” 

Jamerson had his squad switch to a 2-3 zone as a solution to alleviate the foul trouble. 

“Our zone worked really good because we have a lot more coverage and help-side defense,” Deien said. “They (Kirksville) liked to get it down into the post, and we defend that a lot better when we're in the 2-3, especially against taller teams like that.” 

The Lady Pirates made seven free throws in the final 2:34 to put the game on ice. 

Falconer finished with nine points, while Autumn Bigsby and Mariah Strong each added seven.

But it was Deien who played the starring role. 

“We've been waiting for Emma to just kind of go off like that,” Jamerson said. “Sometimes when you look at a player and you give them the green light just at will, they put a little bit of pressure on themselves, but we talked about loosening up and letting it fly. Emma was the one who broke through tonight." 

The Lady Pirates improve to 4-6 on the season and 1-2 in NCMC. 

Hannibal next plays at Wentzville-Liberty on Jan. 2.

“We just need to keep pushing because we have the ability to win these,” Deien said. “We just have to keep fighting through it all.”