After the opening tip, it was the Wildcats as a team that stole the show.
Playing like the No. 1 team in the state, Meridian crushed Tupelo in the second half en route to a 91-55 victory.
"Our first five guys came ready to play, but when you play the No. 1 team in the state, it's going to take everybody," Tupelo coach Grant Pate said. "We had a chance early, but it snowballed on us."
With Meridian (5-0) ranked No. 1 by the Clarion Ledger in its preseason poll, Tupelo (4-2) certainly appeared up to the challenge for most of two quarters.
Baskets by Chris Brooks and Shane Butler gave the Wave an early 7-4 lead, but the Wildcats rebounded and led 16-12 by the end of the first quarter.
A Rashon Coleman bucket tied the contest at 23-23, and the Wave were still within 31-27 in the later stages of the second period. But Meridian kicked it into gear for a couple of minutes, going on a 9-0 run that powered the visitors to a 42-30 halftime lead.
"Early on, Tupelo came out with a lot of energy," Meridian coach Randy Bolden said. "We have a senior-led team that understands what's at stake.
"We turned up our defense, and that was the difference in the game. Defense is what we do."
That defensive intensity powered the Wildcats to a 14-3 run straight out of the locker room that pretty much iced the victory midway through the third quarter.
"I thought we came out flat, and turned the ball over too much," Pate said. "Give them credit for being No. 1 in the state."
Hood did show up, scoring 26 points in the contest, including 10 in the decisive third quarter. But it was a somewhat non-showy outing for the senior, and more about team.
"Rodney is an exceptional player, and has some really good pieces around him," Pate said. "That makes them a quality team."
Deontaye Ewing paced the Wave offense with 18.
Tupelo will be back in action Monday, hosting Nettleton.
(G) Meridian 51, Tupelo 37
The Lady Wave (4-2) saw Meridian pound the ball inside, using post-up plays, and offensive rebounds to wear down Tupelo.
Meridian (3-3) only led 27-24 at the half, but began the third quarter with an 11-0 run, and Tupelo could not respond.
Bria Ruff led the Lady Wave offense with 11, while Kayla Gordon paced Meridian with 23.