It's back to practice this week for the Pekin boys basketball team after playing four games in six days against top-notch competition last week at the season-opening Washington Tournament of Champions.

"We have a week of practice before our next game. We need to work on our defense, both man-to-man and zone," Pekin coach Jeff Walraven said Saturdayafternoon outside the Dragons' locker room at Torry Gym following a 63-46 loss to Chicago Leo.

"The more stops you have on defense, the less pressure on your offense," Walraven said.

Pekin (1-3) will return to action this Saturday, when it will play host to Dunlap in a Mid-Illini Conference opener and the Dragons' home opener at Hawkins Gym. Tipoff will be at about 6:30 p.m.

Scoring was a struggle for Pekin against Leo, an all-male Catholic school named in honor of Pope Leo XIII that won the Class A state championship in 2004 and placed second to LeRoy in Class 1A in 2016.

Pekin shot just 31 percent from the field (16 of 51) and was 4 of 18 on 3-pointers against the Lions. Leo, meanwhile, shot 56 percent from the field (24 of 43).

"We took too many contested shots in the lane instead of kicking out the ball," Walraven said. "I told the guys after the game that it's OK to kick it out. I'd rather we have an uncontested '3' than a 'contested '2.'

"It's not that we were being selfish. We were speeding up."
There were some bright spots statistically for the Dragons. They had 15 offensive rebounds to Leo's 10, forced the Lions into 15 turnovers while committing nine themselves, and had more assists (13-7) and steals (7-3) than Leo.

Interestingly, each team was 10 of 17 at the free throw line even though Pekin didn't shoot a foul shot until Jace Link split a pair with 6:10 to go in the third quarter.
Link was the only Pekin player who scored in double figures. The 6-foor-4 senior had 20 points to go along with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Mitchell Cascia had eight points for the Dragons, going 4 of 5 from the field, and four rebounds. Adam Cash had six points on a pair of triples and Christian Hill had five points.

Dechaun Anderson topped Leo with 14 points. The 6-8 junior also had six rebounds. Jadon Williams had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Lions and Fred Cleveland had 11 points.

Pekin never led. The Dragons were behind 27-13 at halftime, shooting just 6 of 22 from the field.

A layup by Cascia with about three minutes left in the third quarter drew Pekin within 33-24, but the Lions scored six straight to push their lead back into double digits at 39-24.

Leo led 42-28 after three quarters and Pekin didn't come closer than 13 points in the fourth quarter.

Pekin lost 87-42 to Class 4A power Belleville West and 83-78 to College Park (Texas), which features the nation's top point guard in Kansas recruit Quintin Grimes, in addition to Leo at the nationally known Tournament of Champions.

The Dragons beat Winston-Salem (N.C.) Prep Academy 63-51 for their lone win.

"I'm pleased with our effort in the tournament," Walraven said. "Also, our defense improved from game to game and several of our young players got plenty of playing time."

Jack Halstead saw limited action for the Dragons because of a sprained ankle. Walraven hopes the senior guard will be ready to go full bore against Dunlap.

Steve Stein can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.