CALVIN — On more than one occasion, Tupelo girls coach Brian Davis had credited his team’s defensive improvement with a five-game winning streak to end the regular season.

That defense once again showed up in full force Thursday night against Hanna in the first round of the Class B District Tournament in Calvin.

The 16th-ranked Lady Tigers harassed Hanna all over the court, turned the majority of 40 turnovers into easy points and doused the Lady Dragons 60-34.

Tupelo improved to 18-7 on the year while Hanna ends its season at 9-13.

“Defensively, we played well again. Ever since Christmas, I’ve thought our defense would be something we could hang our hat on come playoff time,” Davis said. “The girls continue to work hard and they’re starting to buy into it and playing pretty good defense all the way around.”

Tupelo will meet No. 5 Pittsburg for the district championship in what has to be the toughest early matchup in Class B. The Lady Panthers were pushed to the limit by host Calvin in Thursday night’s late game before finally escaping with a 66-58 win.

Pittsburg improved to 18-5 while coach Lachelle Brown’s young Calvin club is finished at 8-16.

Tupelo 60, Hanna 34

The Tupelo defense came up with 22 steals, including nine by THS standout Kendra Pearce and six more from Brittanie Willams.

Those two were thorns in Hanna’s side all night and right from the start as Pearce scored eight points and Williams the other four in a 12-0 Tupelo surge to begin the game. The Lady Tigers scored six straight points late in the second quarter to push their lead to 30-12.

Pearce scored the first four points of the third quarter and Williams followed with a steal and layup that made it 37-15 at the 4:45 mark of the period.

Pearce would finish with a game-high 24 points and also had six rebounds to go with her takeaway total. She was also a perfect 11-of-11 from the free throw line.

Williams had one of her best all-around games of the year for Tupelo, scoring 14 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field and adding six assists.

“She played well. She’s one of the big reasons we’re a little harder to guard,” Davis said.

Williams reached double figures in all three games Tupelo played in the 2005 Pontotoc Conference Tournament held in Calvin last December.

“She likes this gym. She had a great conference tournament over here and hopefully she can have another big game Saturday night,” Davis said.

Katie Campbell scored nine points and Desiree Bell followed with eight in the balanced THS attack.

Brooke Berryhill scored 12 but was the only Lady Dragon to hit double digits. Carrie Edwards had five points and five steals for Hanna.

Pittsburg 66, Calvin 58

The Lady Bulldogs didn’t seem to be bothered by Pittsburg’s lofty ranking as they stayed within striking distance the entire contest until running out of gas in the end.

It looked like Pittsburg may finally put the game out of reach after a free throw by Andrea Richardson gave the Lady Panthers a 52-40 lead with 7:19 to play.

But Calvin had other ideas.

The hosts went on an amazing 13-1 run and tied the game at 53-53 on a free throw by freshman Holley Caldwell with 5:07 to play. Sierra Barnhart scored eight of her game-high 23 point in the CHS surge, including a pair of 3-pointers.

Pittsburg freshman post player Audrey Whitmore responded by scoring eight of her team’s final 13 points — including a pivotal 3-point play with 3:18 left that gave the Lady Panthers a 59-54 lead. She would finish with 22 points and 13 boards to lead Pittsburg. Seven other PHS players scored but none hit double digits.

Caldwell added 20 points for Calvin while Emily Hassler — the Lady Bulldogs’ talented post player who is averaging nearly 20 points per game — settled for just 10 before fouling out with 6:43 to play. A frustrated Hassler spent most of the game on the bench after picking up her third foul at the 2:05 mark of the first quarter and her fourth infraction right before halftime.

Class B District Tournament action in Calvin continues tonight with a pair of boys contests. Pittsburg plays Hanna at 6:30 p.m. with the host Bulldogs entertaining Tupelo at 8 p.m.

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