The Washington boys basketball defeated Pekin 50-48 Friday night at Torry Gymnasium in Washington nine days after losing to Pekin by 19 in the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament.
The score is not indicative of how the game fared.
The Panthers (9-5, 5-0) dominated the first half, spreading the floor on offense to get uncontested looks at the basket and using hard nosed man-to-man defense to frustrate the Pekin offense.
It was a different story in the second half, specifically the final quarter.
Pekin (5-9, 2-4) came out in the fourth quarter, trailing 37-21, with fire in its eyes, backed by a Ben Cash steal and score with 5:46 left in the game to bring the score within single digits at 39-27.
The Dragons attempted to turn up the heat in the final minutes, double teaming Washington passes and diving passing lanes.
The Panthers turned the ball over nine times in the second half, allowing Pekin to scratch its way back into the game.
Washington struggled from the free throw line late, going 8-for-15 from the charity stripe in the final four minutes of the game.
The Dragons went on a 27-13 run in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t even the score.
Pekin narrowed its deficit to one point after a Cash three pointer with 11 seconds to play.
After Washington’s Devin Whitelow made 1-of-2 free throws on the other end, Pekin inbounded the ball with two seconds to play under its own basket.
Jack Link got a decent look from just inside the half-court line, but could not convert.
Washington was led by Colline Dietz (13 points) and Devin Whitelow (12 points) in the contest.
“In the second half, they broke us down in the paint and we need to find our killer mentality. Sometimes you’ve just got to gut things out and this team took a gut-check over the holiday tournament,” Washington coach Kevin Brown said. “We came out tonight with high energy and then we thought the second half was going to be easy. We didn’t play as a unit in the second half. “
Cash scored 17 points for the Dragons. Carter Taphorn (3-for-3 on 3-pointers) and Mason Carr each scored nine points.
“Our guys did a good job at regrouping at halftime to make a good effort of getting the ball to the basket and making shots and getting stops at the other end,” Pekin coach Jeff Walraven said. “Sometimes when you are down like that you just tell your guys to play as hard as they can and hope for the best. I was proud of our guys that they responded.”
Washington jumped out to a 16-5 lead in the first quarter, before the Dragons scored five straight points to end the opening frame at 16-10.
Pekin struggled in the second quarter, failing to score in the frame.
“Washington is very physical and it won’t let you get where you want to go,” Walraven said. “We didn’t do a good job in the first half with that. It’s going to be tough to win a game when you don’t score any points in the second quarter.”
The Panthers outscored the Dragons 9-0 in the second quarter to take a 25-10 lead into intermission.
Collin Dietz led Washington in the first half with eight points.
“Dietz got us out to a great start,” Brown said. “We were looking to get Whitelow open and our guys did a good job in realizing Pekin was taking that away and getting the ball to Dietz when he was open.”
The Panthers had success in the first half because of their tenacity on both sides of the ball, Brown said.
“In the first half I thought we played really well on both ends of the floor,” Brown said. “We hit the open man, we were moving well and defensively we took a lot away from them.”
Both teams played evenly in the third quarter, with Washington winning the frame 12-11 to hold a 37-21 lead with eight minutes to play.
Pekin defeated Washington 53-34 Dec. 28 at the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament.
“Yes, we gave up a 16 point lead, but that team beat us by almost 20 a week ago,” Brown said. “So, we will keep trying to find ways to get better.”