What a difference a few weeks can make. Evan Cerven, coach of the Hannibal High School girls basketball team, made that point after watching his team pull out a 51-40 conference win over Kirksville Thursday night in Korf Gym.

What a difference a few weeks can make. Evan Cerven, coach of the Hannibal High School girls basketball team, made that point after watching his team pull out a 51-40 conference win over Kirksville Thursday night in Korf Gym.

"Early in the season I don't think we would have held onto that lead and pulled out a win," he said. "But the group has collectively gotten tougher and that's what helped us pull this one out tonight."

The Lady Pirates led 36-30 after three quarters. Their lead was shaved to four points when Kirksville's Kate Wollmering sank a basket 20 seconds into the fourth quarter. However, the visitors would never manage to get within four points the rest of the way.

Hannibal sealed the victory with a 9-2 scoring run over the final 2 1/2 minutes. Five of those points came from the free-throw line, a fact which greatly pleased Cerven.

"Finally," he said. "It was such a great sight to see us swishing those things. It definitely contributed to as winning the ballgame."

Kaylee Falconer, who led Hannibal with 16 points, was perfect from the line, connecting on all 12 of her attempts.

Hannibal's Bella Falconer ended the night with 14 points.

Cerven, whose team was missing a starter, said it played well enough to win.

"Offensively it was a little touch and go," he said. "It wasn't is pretty as we would have liked it to be, but we showed great toughness on both sides of the floor, especially late in the fourth quarter, which helped his hold on for the win."

Also helping the Lady Pirates down the stretch was their ability to handle Kirksville's full-court press.

"We saw that on film and had it in the back of our mind. We showed great composure and made the right reads for the most part," Cerven said. "It could've been a little cleaner, but at the end of the day we got the job done."

The victory lifted Hannibal to 5-5 overall and 2-1 in the NCMC.

danny.henley@courierpost.com