A determined effort by the Lady Rebels to prove they had learned a thing or two since early November ultimately ended the same way - in a loss.
In action at the Renasant Bank Relay for Life Lady Challenge, the Lady Wave used a strong second half to hold back Hickory Flat 58-48.
"Hickory Flat is a good team, and they play as hard as any team we've played," Tupelo coach Matt Justice said. "Against their zone, we weren't hitting any shots, and that slowed us down and hurt our momentum.
"I knew we were going to be rusty, but I wanted us to play hard. We played with the defensive intensity I wanted, and I'm proud of the team responding after the first half."
It was a tight first half on the scoreboard, with Hickory Flat (9-11) getting a basket by Brianna Reaves in the closing seconds of the first quarter for a 17-16 lead. Tupelo (10-4) made a move in the second period to retake the lead, as a Bre Jernigan 3-pointer pushed the Lady Wave to a 32-30 margin.
But a pair of baskets by Kaitlyn Wilson in the final minute put the Lady Rebels back up 34-32.
"We've come a long way since the season started," said Hickory Flat coach Alicia Pickens, who doesn't have a senior on the roster. "Just our experience has cut out a lot of turnovers.
"We executed well in the first half, and we got a glimpse in the first half of who we can be."
With a defensive tweak, the Lady Wave showed who it could be in the third quarter. Tupelo's defense held Hickory Flat to just three points in the period, and some strong inside play that included points by freshman Marqueesha Hoskins and Antoinette Riddle gave Tupelo a 44-37 lead.
Seven points in the final period by freshman Jaleigha Polk helped the Lady Wave keep Hickory Flat from denting that margin.
Riddle paced the Tupelo offense with 13 points, while Reaves led Hickory Flat with 15.
(G) New Albany 43, Itawamba AHS 36: An intense defensive struggle came down to New Albany veteran Jazmine Spears who scored 28 points, five in the final two minutes.