The Pekin boys basketball team did a role reversal Thursday afternoon.
Down by 12 points at halftime and 11 points midway through the fourth quarter, the Dragons rallied but fell short in a 49-43 loss to Champaign Centennial at Dawson Hawkins Gymnasium in the quarterfinals of the 53rd annual Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament.
Pekin led Arlington Heights Hersey by 28 points late in the first half of an opening-round tournament game Wednesday night before holding on for a 56-44 victory.
"We need to execute on offense and play with intensity on defense for an entire game," Pekin coach Jeff Walraven said after the loss to Centennial.
The Dragons trailed Centennial 40-29 before starting their final push. Triples by Brady Grashoff, Adam Cash and Max Jones helped cut the Chargers' lead to 45-42 with 38 seconds left.
A missed free throw on the front end of a bonus situation by Centennial's Tommy Makabu with 30.8 seconds to go gave Pekin (5-7) an opportunity to tie the game with a triple.
The Dragons' Mitchell Cascia split a pair of free throws after a drive to the basket, and Centennial (10-5) scored the game's final four points at the foul line.
Centennial was 11-for-13 on free throws in the fourth quarter, led by Makabu's 7-for-9 performance, and 16-for-19 on the foul shots for the game.
"That's a senior stepping up," Centennial coach Tim Lavin said about Makabu's clutch free throws.
Makabu scored a game-high 20 points. Bryson Cowper tossed in 14 points, Tamba Kula had 13 points, and Jaden Roberts-Thomas had seven rebounds for Centennial.
The Chargers were 7-for-20 on 3-pointers. They were 6-for-14 in the first half, scoring 18 of their 25 points from behind the arc. They led 25-13 at the break.
"Part of that was Pekin's zone defense, and we have a couple guys who can shoot the ball," Lavin said about Centennial's propensity to fire up 3-pointers in the first half.
Walraven said driving more aggressively to the basket helped his team get back into the game in the second half.
Lavin pointed out some other factors.
"We weren't making as many shots, Pekin made some shots, and we had some turnovers that hurt us," he said.
Jace Link scored 10 points for Pekin. all in the second half. He was 4-for-4 at the free throw line, giving him 12-for-12 for the tournament.
Grashoff had seven points, Christian Hill had six points for the Dragons, and Cascia had six rebounds.
Hill was called for a technical foul by official Todd Gilmore in the second quarter for protesting when he thought he was fouled.
As the teams were warming up to start the second half, Hill went over to Gilmore and said something to him. The two hugged and smiled.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.