Losing in the Macomb Thanksgiving Tournament wasn't a pleasant experience for the Pekin girls basketball team.
But the Dragons rebounded -- literally and figuratively -- and ended up finishing in second place last week in the season-opening six-team round-robin tournament.
Pekin went 4-1. Tournament champion Pleasant Plains was 5-0. The Dragons' Maddy Cash was named to the all-tournament first team and freshman Taylor Goss was selected to the all-tournament second team.
Pleasant Plains beat Pekin 49-30 Friday.
The game was a nightmare for the Dragons, who trailed 37-12 after three quarters. Cash led Pekin with 11 points and Goss had 10.
The Dragons went back to work Saturday and won twice, beating Peoria Christian 51-11 and Havana 47-29.
Goss had 14 points and teammate Molly Flannigan tossed in 10 against Peoria Christian, which failed to score in the opening quarter. Cash and Goss each had 13 points against Havana.
"We ended up using the Pleasant Plains game as a learning experience," said Pekin coach Becky Fulkerson.
"We weren't mentally ready to play at all that night and it showed on the floor. It was difficult to watch. We couldn't make a layup or free throw to save our lives.
Everything that could go wrong for us went wrong. Hopefully we got all that out of our system."
Fulkerson said the Peoria Christian game was more of a redemption game for the Dragons than anything else.
Against Havana, "we played well for four quarters," she said.
Everyone contributed to the win over the Ducks especially freshman Tess Cascia, "who did an amazing job on the boards," Fulkerson said.
Pekin opened the tournament and its season Nov. 13 with a 63-39 win over Macomb, scoring 30 points in the fourth quarter. The Dragons were 19-for-24 at the free throw line in the quarter. Cash scored 18 points, Goss had 17 in her high school debut and Lauren Juergens had 11.
Then came a 46-43 win Wednesday over Illini Bluffs. Cash led the way with 16 points and Juergens had 10. Pekin had to hang on for the win. The Dragons were in front 40-26 after three quarters.
All in all, it was a good week for Pekin.
"We enjoy coming to the Macomb tournament each year because you get to play five games in six days, even though driving to Macomb four times in six days isn't fun," Fulkerson said. "The other teams in the tournament are from small schools, but they're good competition."
Pekin is off until Nov. 28, when it will play host to non-conference rival Normal West in its home opener in Hawkins Gym.
This is a new-look Pekin team after four years of having all-time leading scorer Sydney Diekhoff run the show.
Diekhoff is now a freshman on the McKendree University women's basketball team. She scored 1,678 points during her high school career and is the only Pekin player to reach the 1,000-point mark since the team's debut in 1973.
The Dragons were 19-11 last year, setting a team record for wins in a season.
The old record was 18, set in 2014.
"We played well over the summer and Maddy (Cash) and Molly (Flannigan) have been great leaders on and off the court," Fulkerson said about the team's lone seniors.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.