Pekin turned up the heat defensively Saturday night in The Kitchen.

But the Dragons couldn't come up with a recipe for offensive success and lost 44-37 to host Peoria Notre Dame in a non-conference boys basketball game in the Irish's cozy gym.

"Both teams played well defensively. We've been doing a good job on defense since our first (Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament) game," said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven, reflecting on a disappointing 65-55 loss Dec. 27 to Lake Zurich.

Defense got Pekin (6-10) back in the game Saturday after Notre Dame (12-3) reeled off 16 consecutive points to move in front 24-13 late in the first half.

The Dragons scored 10 straight points to climb within 24-23 on a basket by Patrick Torrey with 4:41 left in the third quarter.

Triples by Connor Dillon and Joe Gustafson gave the Irish a 30-27 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Notre Dame had more turnovers (seven) than points (six) in the third quarter.

"We flew around defensively and got our hands on a lot of passes in that quarter," Walraven said.

Notre Dame scored eight straight points after Pekin's Brady Grashoff made a basket to start the fourth quarter. That surge gave the Irish a 38-29 lead, and the Dragons couldn't catch up.

Max Jones made a deep triple to end Notre Dame's eight-point run and cut the Irish's lead to 38-32 with 52.4 seconds left, but the Dragons didn't get any closer.

A key basket in Notre Dame's late run was a tip-in by Declan Dillon that gave the Irish a 32-29 lead.

"We didn't box out well on that play," Walraven said.

Torrey led Pekin with 12 points. He was 6-for-7 from the field. Grashoff had eight points and three steals. Adam Cash (four rebounds, three steals), Ryan Collier (three assists) and Tyler Durr (three assists) also had some decent stats for Pekin.

Connor Dillon had a game-high 15 points and five rebounds for Notre Dame. He was 5-for-6 on free throws. Gustafson had 10 points and Declan Dillon had eight points.

Notre Dame is no slouch, as its record would indicate.

The Irish are coming off a championship in the Plano Christmas Classic achieved by a 56-45 win over previously undefeated Ottawa.

Connor Dillon had 28 points, seven rebounds and four steals in that game and Ottawa (13-1) was just 6-for-21 from the field in the second half.

GAME NOTES: Pekin's Max Jones, who missed the Dragons' final three Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament games with a foot injury, returned to action Saturday and scored six points in limited playing time. He was 2-for-5 on three-pointers. ... The Dragons and Irish were each missing a key player. Pekin's Justin Taphorn (ankle) was on the Dragons' bench and Notre Dame captain Matt Pudik (high fever) was home. ... Pekin got off to a 5-0 lead on a post move by Patrick Torrey and triple by Adam Cash. That turned out to be the Dragons' biggest lead of the night. ... Pekin helped its cause during the game by going 6-for-7 at the free throw line. Notre Dame made life difficult for itself by going 8-for-15 on free throws. ... Pekin shot 48 percent from the field (14-for-29) but just 3-for-15 on triples while Notre Dame shot 53 percent from the field (16-for-30). ... Notre Dame beat Pekin in the sophomore game 66-33. The game ended with a running clock.

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