Autumn Bigsby scored 22 points as the Hannibal girls basketball team dispatched Liberty-Wentzville 72-64 in the Class 4 District 8 Tournament.
Autumn Bigsby is normally relied upon most to make contributions on the defensive end of the floor.
Her offense is what sparkled Monday night.
The junior drained four threes in the first half and finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds to lead Hannibal to a 72-64 win over Liberty-Wentzville in the first round of the Class 4 District 8 Tournament inside Korf Gymnasium.
Hannibal (8-17), the No. 5 seed, reached 70 points in a game for the first time since 2008.
The Lady Pirates advance to face top-seeded St. Dominic in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Bigsby turned her final trey into a four-point play with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The forward was fouled while shooting and made the subsequent free throw.
Her 3-point shot banked in off the backboard.
“I didn't really have anything to lose,” Bigsby said of the play. “If I'm going to go out, I'm going to go out with a bang. But I was really surprised, to be honest. I just went with the flow of the offense. When I got the ball and I was open, I shot.”
The pivotal sequence gave Hannibal a 31-26 lead after falling behind by as many as eight in the first quarter.
The Lady Pirates never looked back.
“To go from a one-point lead to a five-point lead just in one swift motion, that was definitely the pick-me-up we needed to kick-start us again,” Hannibal coach Ben Jamerson said. “We came out and responded in the second half and continued to play well.”
Kaylee Falconer, who finished with 15 points, coasted for a layup off a steal to grow the Hannibal advantage to 42-32 with 5:11 left in the third quarter. The guard scored 12 of her points after halftime.
Emma Deien posted six of her 19 points in the third to help the Lady Pirates take a 51-38 edge into the fourth. The sophomore also pulled down nine boards in the win.
Liberty (6-19), the No. 4 seed, managed just six points in the first eight minutes after the intermission.
Unlike Jan. 2 when Hannibal blew an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 45-41 loss at Liberty, the Lady Pirates made a final push to shut the door.
But Liberty didn't go down without a fight.
Cari Schaeffer erupted for 15 points in the fourth and helped the visitors pull within 56-51 with 4:33 left.
The senior standout led all scorers with 30 points on the night.
“(Schaeffer) was kind of unstoppable,” Deien said of her opponent. “She was doing so good and had a great game. It's her senior year so hat's off to her for having this big game.”
With three Hannibal starters battling foul trouble, freshmen Taylor Simms and Baylee Zeiger saw significant action on defense in the final period as Jamerson subbed out members of his front line when the Lady Pirates didn't have possession.
Keri Bareis, Deien and Bigsby each played with four fouls much of the fourth.
The subbing strategy worked to perfection.
Bareis converted a traditional three-point play to grow Hannibal's lead to 59-51.
Deien later followed suit with a three-point play to make it 66-53.
Bigsby provided Hannibal's last bucket of the night with 1:04 remaining to all but seal the deal.
Jamerson lauded his freshmen for stepping in preserve the starters down the stretch.
“I knew they would be able to go in on defense and play that role to the best of their ability,” Jamerson said of the newcomers. “We kept Autumn, Emma and Keri from fouling out. Who knows? Those possessions may have saved us the entire game.”
Jamerson mentioned his team handled Liberty's comeback charge better than the first meeting.
“It actually seemed like they played a very similar game, especially in the fourth quarter,” Jamerson said of Liberty. "Schaeffer was trying to storm them back. But the way our girls responded this time versus then was a whole lot different. It was good to see us not just weather the storm but continue to attack them and push the lead.”
Hannibal made seven free throws in the final period and converted 18 of 26 foul shots overall.
“Free throws, you've just got to make them,” Deien said. “We've been working on them because free throws will win or lose games. You've got to have those points. We focused on them today and were making them.”
Bareis recorded eight points and six rebounds in the win.
Abby Baumann tied Liberty's Emily Giljum with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Grace Watson was the second Lady Eagle in double figures with 13 points.
Hannibal has less than 24 hours to prepare for a state-ranked foe in the district semifinals.
“We need to go into it believing in ourselves, so that's what we're going to do and maybe we'll shock some people,” Deien said.