Victory denied: Hannibal Pirates drop home opener

Posted: Dec. 28, 2016 10:26 am

Hannibal senior captain Noah Zahn burst ahead on a breakaway, rose toward the basket and did everything but slam the ball through the hoop.

His dunk attempt clanked off the rim.

"I've got to compliment the senior for trying to give us a big momentum play," coach Doug Coleman said. "In practice, he throws them down, and he was trying to just get his team going. I like that he went strong to the basket. I'll take that."

It could have been a big moment to spur the Pirates to a comeback rally.

Instead, it was a microcosm of the frustrations Hannibal (1-7, 0-3 North Central Missouri Conference) encountered during a 66-54 home opener loss to the Fulton Hornets at Korf Gymnasium on Tuesday night.

The Hornets jumped out in front early with four first-quarter 3-pointers. After Jared Peery rattled home his second trey to put Fulton ahead 18-8, Hannibal stopped the bleeding and took a timeout with 2 minutes, 6 seconds left in the first. 

The team huddles were stark in contrast. For Fulton, high fives and smiles. For Hannibal, a meeting about how to get back on track.

"Fulton is a skilled ball club," Coleman said. "They had a lot of kids who shot the ball really well tonight. Our kids knew it. I felt like we just had blips in the ballgame where we went away from our scouting report and our habits. It showed."

Hannibal would recover from that point forward, playing Fulton almost even over the final three periods. The Hornets only outscored the Pirates by a point — 35-34 — in the second half.

The early hole, though, was too much for Hannibal to overcome.

The Pirates got back within seven in the third but never reached any closer.

Hannibal sophomore Dezi Jones scored 17 points on the night to lead the Pirates, going 7-of-12 from the field while also collecting seven rebounds. Zahn and Trevor Watson each finished with 12 points a piece. Six other Pirates scored, but none of the others netted more than three points.

As the Fulton defense keyed in on Jones, Hannibal tried to set up scoring chances for other contributors. Cold for much of the night, the Pirates shot 15 percent (3-of-19) from behind the 3-point line.

"The lane was clogged and we had some opportunities to kick it out, but some guys were just a little off tonight," Coleman said. "Hit half of those, and it's a different game, because they have to spread out and guard those guys. But when the lid was on the basket, it was much, much easier to sag in on us."

Coming up next for Hannibal is the Warrenton Tournament, which begins Tuesday.

Despite the team's slow start this season, Coleman said its goal is to come out on top next week. There should be plenty more "teachable moments" along the way, just as there were Tuesday night, he said. 

"Long story short, I was really proud because we're chipping away," Coleman said.


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