Defense paved the way for the Pekin boys basketball team Saturday night.

The Dragons didn’t allow Canton to score in double figures in any quarter and beat the Little Giants 46-23 in a Mid-Illlini Conference game in Hawkins Gym.

Canton shot only 18 percent from the field (8-for-45). The winless Little Giants (0-5, 0-2) didn’t make things easy for themselves by going 5-for-11 at the free throw line.

“We talked at halftime about extending our lead through our defense,” said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven. “And our defense stepped up.”

Indeed it did. 

Ahead 26-13 at halftime, the Dragons (3-5, 2-1) moved in front 39-15 by holding Canton to two points in the third quarter on 1-for-12 shooting.

The Little Giants’ lone basket in the quarter was scored on an uncontested layup by T.J. Myers with 2:57 left after a Dragons turnover.

“I wish we would have shot better, but that’s when your defense has to carry you,” Walraven said.

Pekin shot just 33 percent from the field (16-for-49) including 1-for-13 on 3-pointers, but made up for the chilly shooting with its defense and a hefty 39-18 rebounding advantage.

Pekin’s Patrick Torrey was the only player in the game to score in double figures. The 6-foot-7 senior had 15 points.

“Patrick is a big, strong kid and a better athlete than he gives himself credit for,” Walraven said. 

Ryan Collier had eight points for the Dragons and Brady Grashoff and Max Jones each had six. 

Aden Emery scored five points to lead Canton, which is coached by 22-year-old Hunter Rhodes, a 2014 Canton graduate who scored 1,160 points in his high school career and averaged 23.2 points per game as a senior.

The 5-foot-10 guard led Kirkwood Community College to the NJCAA national championship in 2016 and he spent the last two seasons at Division I Northern Iowa.

NOTES: Canton’s Jake Smith made an early exit. The 6-3 junior fouled out with 4:56 left in the third quarter. ... Pekin and Canton combined to miss six shots and commit five turnovers at the start of the game before the Dragons’ Patrick Torrey broke the ice when he made a layup off a pass from Brady Grashoff with 3:56 to go in the first quarter. ... Max Jones made Pekin’s lone 3-pointer when he connected from long range with 3:52 left in the second quarter to give the Dragons a 23-6 lead. ... Pekin will hit the road this week, playing at Chatham Glenwood (4-1) on Tuesday and Washington (2-5, 1-2) on Friday.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.