Pekin beat Winchester West Central 72-40 Saturday in the Dragons’ final game in the Washington Tournament of Champions boys basketball tournament.
Guess which number Pekin coach Jeff Walraven liked best? It wasn’t the 72 points scored by Pekin in Torry Gym on a day when the Dragons shot nearly 50 percent from the field (27-for-55) including 8-for-14 on triples.
It was the 40 points allowed to West Central. Pekin held the Cougars to 32 percent shooting from the field (15-for-47). West Central star Gabe Cox scored just 12 points. The 6-foot junior was 4-for-13 from the field.
“We made a concerted effort (Saturday) to get our defense where it needs to be,” Walraven said. “We’re not there as a team or individually, but this was a good first step. Had we played defense like this in our first three tournament games, the results might have been different.”
Pekin (1-3) lost to Aurora Christian 60-44, Pacifica Christian (California) 77-72 and Pleasant Grove (Utah) 69-48 before facing West Central in the season-opening tournament.
Pleasant Grove, a team in which 7-foot-4 Matt Van Komen is a complementary piece, was the best team Pekin faced at Washington. The Vikings swept all four of their games.
West Central (1-3) was no slouch. The Class 1A co-op program from the Jacksonville area went 24-8 last year, won a regional championship and has three of its top scorers back including Cox, one of the top small-school players in the state.
The Cougars lost 54-51 to host Washington in their tournament opener and beat Harlem Machesney Park 70-51 for their lone win.
Pekin never trailed West Central. The Dragons led 25-15 after the first quarter and 40-26 at halftime as Max Jones and then Ryan Collier each made a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
A 24-point third quarter propelled Pekin to a 64-39 lead and the Dragons allowed only one point in the fourth quarter as both coaches gave reserves substantial playing time.
Patrick Torrey had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Pekin, Brady Grashoff had 14 points and Tyler Durr had a dozen points. Justin Taphorn added eight points and Adam Cash had seven points.
Torrey, a 6-7 senior, was 7-for-9 from the field. Grashoff and Durr were each 5-for-9 and Grashoff had four assists.
“That’s what happens when we share the ball on offense and Patrick (Torrey) is a presence inside, which gives our shooters better looks,” Walraven said.
Looking at the tournament as a whole, Walraven said his team improved in a different area in each game.
“We don’t ever want to take a step back. Our arc needs to get better and better,” he said. “We have quite a fight ahead of us in the conference, in our tournament (Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament) and regional.”
Pekin is off until Thursday, when it will travel to Dunlap for a Mid-Illini Conference opener.
The game is being played one night earlier than the rest of the conference because Dunlap has a madrigals performance Friday.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.