It didn't take the Pekin boys basketball team very long to knock off Mid-Illini Conference powers Washington and Morton in back-to-back Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament games.
About 16 hours, as a matter of fact.
After drubbing Washington 53-34 late Wednesday night, the Dragons beat Morton 58-50 on Thursday afternoon at Dawson Hawkins Gymnasium in the fifth-place game of the 52nd annual tournament.
Even though they didn't count as Mid-Illini games, Pekin's wins over Washington and Morton will certainly get the attention of everyone in the conference.
"We wanted to send a statement in these games. We're still here," said Pekin guard Ben Cash, who scored 22 points against Morton.
Morton beat Pekin 55-40 in a Mid-Illini game Dec. 16 at Hawkins Gym. The Dragons will play at Washington on Jan. 6in a Mid-Illini game.
Morton and Washington are undefeated (4-0) in conference play. Pekin is 2-2.
Pekin (6-7 overall) won three of its four games in the tournament.
The Dragons came from behind to beat Peoria Richwoods 49-47 in overtime and lost 52-34 to No. 1 seed United Township before beating No. 4 seed Washington and No. 3 seed Morton.
"There's no magic pill. We're playing with confidence," said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven. "Our seniors are playing well. The light has turned on. They're realizing there's no reason to hold back."
Mason Carr contributed 11 points and three steals to Pekin's win over Morton (10-3). He shot 4-for-5 from the field and had nine points in the third quarter on a pair of triples and a three-point play off an inbounds pass from Christian Hill.
Sam McClain pulled down nine rebounds for the Dragons including four on the offensive end and he scored seven points.
Cash, Carr and McClain are all seniors.
Hill, a junior, had 10 points and five rebounds.
Morton coach Jarrett Brown said the Potters faced a different Pekin team Thursday than the one his team beat less than two weeks earlier in the same gym.
"Pekin is playing with a lot of confidence," Brown said. "Plus, they kept us out of paint (Thursday) and they made some tough shots."
The Dragons were in front of Morton for nearly the entire game Thursday, taking the lead for good 4-2 on a triple by senior Zach Sullivan with 4:39 left in the first quarter.
Pekin led 15-5 after the first quarter, 21-14 at halftime and 35-27 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter had the intensity of, well, a conference game.
Morton's Ryan Altenberger scored 17 of his 21 points in the quarter, keeping the Potters within striking distance.
Pekin led by 10 points (45-35) midway through the quarter. Morton climbed within four points three times down the stretch, including 52-48 with 41.7 seconds left on a three-point play by Barik Olden.
The Dragons were 4-for-4 from the field and 15-for-21 at the free throw line in the quarter. They finished 7-for-8 on free throws after Hill missed a pair.
Cash had 10 points in the quarter and Hill had seven. After failing to connect on the two free throws, Hill went 5-for-6 at the line.
"We did enough right at the end of the game to win it," Walraven said
Altenberger finished 8-for-8 at the free throw line including 6-for-6 in the fourth quarter. Olden had 15 points and seven rebounds for Morton and Jarrett Crider scored nine points before he fouled out with 3:02 left in the game.
Olden and Crider are sophomores.
Morton went 2-2 in the tournament. Brown wasn't terribly pleased with what he saw from his team in the four games.
"We were off defensively in all our games. We didn't get our hands on shots," he said. "We didn't have a lot of energy in the first half against Pekin, and that was our 'MO' the entire tournament. That's not who we are."