With a full-strength roster, the East Peoria Raiders went into the Williamsville Holiday Tournament looking to build team chemistry.
East Peoria has fought through illnesses in the past two weeks, plus the absence of Jake Teegardin for the majority of the season due to an ankle injury.
“You could see at times that we were learning to fit together again,” East Peoria coach Matt Wright said.
The Raiders went 1-2 in three games at the tournament.
East Peoria opened play against Tolono Unity Dec. 26.
The Raiders used a 21-13 run in the second quarter to hold a 27-22 lead at halftime.
East Peoria would win the second half as well, outscoring Tolono 30-26 in the final 16 minutes of play.
Free throw shooting was key in the Raiders' victory, converting 17-of-21 attempts from the charity stripe.
“We did a good job against Tolono of driving the lane and getting to the free throw line,” Wright said.
Cole Morton led the way with 22 points.
With the win, East Peoria advanced to the winners portion of the bracket to face tournament host Williamsville in the second round on Dec. 27.
The Raiders did not fare as well against Williamsville, losing 55-38.
Despite holding a 12-6 lead after the first quarter of play, East Peoria’s offense stalled in the final 24 minutes.
Williamsville outscored the Radiers 49-26 in that span.
Braydon Weber (12 points) and Morton (13 points) scored 25 of the team’s 38 points.
The loss set up a matchup with state ranked Peoria Quest on Dec. 28.
East Peoria stormed out of the gates, holding a 21-8 lead after the first quarter of play with its largest lead being 17 points.
But the Raiders struggled in the second and third quarters from the field, scoring seven points in each of the periods.
The Gators outscored East Peoria 40-14 in the second and third quarters combined.
The Raiders bounced back in the fourth quarter, scoring 22 points, but it was too late as Quest earned a 67-57 win.
Weber once again had a solid performance, this time lead East Peoria with 20 points.
Morton (12 points) and Elijah Bennett (10 points) also scored in double figures for the Raiders.
The difference between the Tolono result and the games with Williamsville and Peoria quest, Wright says, was consistency.
“We just got away from what was working,” Wright said. “Whenever that happens, you got to credit the other team for making adjustments.”
Despite going 1-2 at the Williamsville tournament, Wright believes that there are encouraging signs.
“We had multiple guys scoring the ball well,” Wright said. “We got to put together a full game. We have some real nice moments, we just need to stretch them out.”