Perhaps it was the late 9:30 p.m. tipoff time. Maybe it was the matching "Pekin Dragons Basketball" red Christmas sweaters worn by the Pekin coaches.
No, there was a much better reason for the Pekin boys basketball team's surprising 53-34 thrashing of Washington on Wednesday night in the 52nd annual Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament.
After the first quarter, the Dragons (5-7) totally dominated the Panthers (7-5) and earned a berth in the tournament's fifth-place game Thursday afternoon against No. 4 seed Morton.
How dominant was Pekin in its win over No. 3 seed Washington?
The Dragons shot 69 percent from the field for the game. They were 20-for-29 including 5-for-10 on three-pointers.
Ben Cash and Zach Sullivan each scored 12 points for Pekin.
Cash was 5-for-5 from the field and he had six assists. Sullivan was 4-for-5 from the field and he played some tough defense against a physical Washington team.
Mason Carr contributed nine points and a behind-the-back dribble that left a Washington defender tumbling to the floor. Christian Hill had seven points and a team-best five rebounds and Mitchell Cascia had six points, making three layups on three attempts.
There's more. Washington led 11-10 after the first quarter, moving in front just before the buzzer on a triple by Adrian Ware.
The Panthers then went nearly 13 1/2 minutes without scoring a point. They missed eight shots and had six turnovers before Devin Whitelow drove and scored with 2:39 left in the third quarter.
By that time, the damage was done. Pekin led 29-13.
Carr responded to Whitelow's basket with a triple from the baseline, and Washington coach Kevin Brown called a timeout with 2:04 left in the third quarter.
"I'm real proud of our guys," said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven. "Our offense was out of sorts in the first quarter. We hit some contested shots to stay in the game.
"After that, we got the ball where we wanted it to go when we wanted it to go there. Your offense looks pretty good when you're hitting outside shots and making layups."
The win over Washington was Pekin's fifth in seven games after opening the season with three losses in the Adam Lopez Thanksgiving Tournament at Springfield Lanphier.
Washington didn't have a good day Wednesday, continuing its recent struggles. Before facing Pekin, the Panthers lost 42-39 in the afternoon to Normal West in the tournament quarterfinals after falling behind 18-7 at halftime.
"We're not a good team right now and this isn't the time to make changes," Brown said. "We're fighting to get better, but every time something hurts a little, we stop playing. Everybody is playing harder than us right now."
Whitelow led Washington against Pekin with 15 points. Ware had seven and Collin Dietz had six. The Panthers shot 37 percent from the floor (13-for-35) but only Whitelow (6-for-9) and Ware (3-for-7) were effective.
Now, about those Christmas sweaters, worn for the first time in a game by Pekin coaches.
"Christmas presents," Walraven said. "We'll be wearing them again (against Morton)."