Survive and advance wasn’t just a cliche Wednesday afternoon for United Township boys basketball coach Ryan Webber.
With 6-foot-4 forward Izaya Sims sidelined by an ankle injury, the Panthers needed their guard-oriented attack to be even more efficient than usual in a Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament quarterfinal game against Pekin.
That’s what happened. Guards Traveon Buchanan, De’Ante Walker and Thomas Hughes combined for 42 points in No. 1 seed United Township’s 52-34 win in Dawson Hawkins Gymnasium.
“I liked our intensity and our offense played at a high level,” Webber said. “Both were very important because Pekin is a difficult team to pull away from.
“They do an effective job passing the ball on offense and they have several good shooters. Defensively, they switch off screens very well. You don’t see that kind of defense very often. We have a lot of respect for Pekin.”
Buchanan and Walker each scored 18 points for United Township (12-0, ranked No. 7 in Class 4A) and Hughes had six. Jesse Desilva didn’t score, but he pulled down a game-high seven rebounds.
The win assured United Township of its best finish ever in the 52-year-old tournament. This is the Panthers’ fourth appearance. They’ve never finished higher than fifth place.
United Township faced Normal West (5-4) on Wednesday night in the semifinals.
Pekin (4-7) stayed close to United Township for a half. The Dragons trailed 7-5 after the first quarter and 21-12 at halftime despite shooting just 3-for-12 from the field.
“I really liked our defense in the first half. We did a good job holding them to 21 points,” said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven. “But we needed a 3-pointer at the buzzer (by Mason Carr) to reach 12 points. We missed a lot of open shots in the first half and we had to make them against that team.”
United Township was only 8-for-25 from the field in the first half, but the third quarter was a different story.
The Panthers went on a 20-9 run in the quarter and made a trio of triples from long range.
“They made some deep shots in that quarter,” Walraven said. “Those are shots we don’t mind a team taking in the zone defense we were playing. If they make them, so be it.”
United Township led 41-21 heading into the fourth quarter. Webber and Walraven both cleared his bench in the final eight minutes.
“I wanted to give guys who hadn’t been playing lately some minutes and save the legs of our regulars with a game coming up quickly(Wednesday night against Washington),” Walraven said.
Nobody from Pekin scored in double figures against United Township. Ben Cash had seven points, Sam McClain had six on a pair of fourth-quarter triples, and Christian Hill and Carr each had five.
Even though the Dragons split their first two tournament games, they never led during regulation time.
Pekin defeated Peoria Richwoods 49-47 in overtime Tuesday night in a first-round game. The Dragons didn’t lead until overtime.
United Township’s Sims was hurt in his team’s 66-33 first-round win over Chicago Mt. Carmel.