A bad loss. A disappointing loss. A step backwards.

There were lots of ways to describe the Pekin boys basketball team's 39-33 loss Saturday night to visiting Limestone in a Mid-Illini Conference game in Hawkins Gym. Dragons coach Jeff Walraven mentioned them all.

Limestone coach Eddie Mathews had the opposite reaction, of course.

"It's nice to get a win," he said. "This was our best grind-it-out win of the season. We've won some games where we've played fast."

With a chance to finish the first half of the Mid-Illini season on an upbeat note and build on a come-from-behind victory the previous week over a hot East Peoria team, the Dragons (8-11, 4-3) struggled against Limestone.

While Pekin struggled, the Rockets (5-12, 3-3) did just enough soaring to pull off an upset win.

"We had bad energy. We weren't ready to play, which is on me. But give Limestone credit," Walraven said. "They took advantage of our defensive mistakes and bad offense. We'd play tough defense for a long stretch then make an error, and they'd make a shot."

Pekin fans might want to skip the next few paragraphs, which report the Dragons' offensive statistics.

The Dragons shot 37 percent from the field (12-for-32) including 1-for-11 on triples and they were 8-for-16 at the free throw line.

"Take away Patrick Torrey's 7-for-8 on two-pointers, and we were 4-for-13 on two-point shots," Walraven said. "You're not going to win many games scoring 33 points."

As for Limestone, "we didn't take a lot of bad shots," Mathews said. "Our shot selection was very good."

Indeed it was. The Rockets were 7-for-9 from the field in the second half including 4-for-5 on three-pointers.

Nathan Thornton was Limestone's most deadly weapon.

The 6-foot-3 junior scored 21 points on 6-for-7 shooting from the field. He made both of his three-point attempts and was 7-for-9 at the free throw line including 6-for-8 down the stretch in the fourth quarter.

"Nathan made those three's in the first half and that got him going," Mathews said. "He got 'iced' twice at the free throw line in the fourth quarter (once on a Pekin timeout and once to reset the clock) and he made his next free throw both times."

Mike Dunne (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Josh Garner (eight points) also played big roles in Limestone's win. Garner didn't score until late in the third quarter.

Torrey led Pekin with 15 points and he had nine rebounds. Justin Taphorn had seven rebounds for the Dragons.

Adam Cash, Brady Grashoff, Tyler Durr and Taphorn each had four points for Pekin. Cash had the Dragons' lone three-pointer. It came in the first quarter.

Walraven pointed to two stretches that changed the course of the game.

Ahead 11-5 early in the second quarter, the Dragons saw the lead evaporate quickly on a triple and old-fashioned three-point play by Thornton in a span of 45 seconds.

After leading 17-15 at halftime, Pekin went in front 27-20 late in the third quarter on a basket by Torrey.

But Limestone reeled off the next 11 points to move ahead 31-27 early in the fourth quarter. Dunne had two triples and Garner had a three-pointer during the Rockets' run.

Pekin tied the game 31-31 on back-to-back put-backs by Taphorn and Torrey, but another three-point play by Thornton with 2:45 to go sent Limestone back in front for good 34-31.

GAME NOTES: With the loss, Pekin fell to 1-3 at home in Mid-Illini Conference games at the halfway point of the conference season. The Dragons have beaten Canton, but lost to Morton, Metamora and Limestone in conference games at home. Pekin is 3-0 on the road in the conference, with wins over Dunlap, Washington and East Peoria. ... Thanks to its hot second-half shooting, Limestone finished at 50 percent from the field (13-for-26) against Pekin including 6-for-16 on triples. ... Limestone's Nathan Thornton scored a game-high 21 points despite sitting on the bench for the final 4:03 of the third quarter after picking up his third foul.

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