Editor’s note: This story was written before Pekin’s games Friday in the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament.

There’s nowhere to go but up for the Pekin boys basketball team. Actually, nowhere to go but down.

Lake Zurich never trailed en route to a 65-55 win Thursday night over the Dragons in Hawkins Gym, handing Pekin only its fifth first-round defeat in the 54-year history of the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament and the first since 2008.

Pekin (4-8) will play at least the next two tournament games downstairs in Custer-Stoudt Gym. The Dragons faced Freeport on Friday afternoon in a consolation round game.

“There are no positives for us to take out of this game,” Pekin coach Jeff Walraven said after the loss to Lake Zurich (3-10).

“They (Lake Zurich) played hard, and they executed better than we did. It’s disappointing to lose in the first round of our own tournament, but we don’t have time to hang our heads. We’ll be facing one of the better Freeport teams that’s come here in years.”

Pekin had problems with Lake Zurich point guard J.R. Cison, who scored 24 points and had three assists. The speedy and shifty 5-foot-11 senior was 10-for-20 from the field.

“It’s very difficult to stay in front of (Cison),” Walraven said. “That was one of our objectives, and we didn’t do it.”

Will Tucker had 13 points and Austin LePage turned in a 12-point effort for the Bears, who shot 51 percent from the field (22-for-43) and made nine 3-pointers.

“I’m sure they made shots tonight that they didn’t make in their losses,” Walraven said.

The Dragons shot just 31 percent from the field (17-for-54). Brady Grashoff had 13 points, Patrick Torrey had 12 points, Tyler Durr had eight points and six rebounds and Justin Taphorn had eight points and five rebounds.

Here’s a positive note: Pekin made its first 10 free throws and finished 15-for-18 at the stripe. 

Lake Zurich grabbed the lead for good (15-12) on a triple by Joe Lococco at the end of the first quarter. The Bears led by as many as 10 points (29-19) in the second quarter before taking a 33-26 advantage into the locker room at halftime.

The Dragons climbed within three points (40-37) with 2:33 to go in the third quarter when Torrey scored on a feed from Adam Cash, but 3-pointers by Tucker and Cison sandwiched a missed Pekin free throw on a bonus opportunity, and it was 46-37.

Pekin got within six points twice in the fourth quarter (48-42 and 58-52) on triples by Cash and Max Jones, but the Dragons didn’t get any closer.

The Dragons are now 49-5 in first-round Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament games.

They also lost openers to Lake Zurich in 2005 and Freeport in 1986 and 2008. Limestone beat Pekin in a first-round game in 1993. The Dragons beat Lake Zurich 43-27 in 2011 in a first-round game.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.