BASKETBALL - Max Jones was on the bench with a boot on his injured left foot. Justin Taphorn was on the bench, icing his injured right ankle.
And the Pekin boys basketball team trailed Freeport 43-31 late in the third quarter of a consolation round game at the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament.
Suddenly, there was a twist in the tale of the Dragons and Pretzels on Friday afternoon in Custer-Stoudt Gym.
Pekin scored the next 12 points to tie the game 43-43 entering the fourth quarter. Back-to-back triples by Ryan Collier and Tyler Durr were followed by Collier's drive to the basket that drew the Dragons even.
Patrick Torrey made a layup off a pass from Collier on an out-to-bounds play to put Pekin in front 45-43 at the start of the fourth quarter.
Two free throws by Freeport's Kijuan Burns made it 45-45, but Adam Cash's old-fashioned three-point play with 5:42 left in the game put the Dragons in front 48-45 and they never trailed again en route to an improbable 60-51 victory.
After Freeport surged to its biggest lead of the game (42-29), Pekin outscored the Pretzels 31-8 the rest of the way to keep alive its chances of getting to the consolation championship game and back into Hawkins Gym.
Jones was hurt during Pekin's 65-55 loss to Lake Zurich on Thursday night in Hawkins Gym in the opening round of the tournament.
Taphorn, coming off a 2-for-13 night from the field against Lake Zurich, had made his first four shots and scored nine points in the first quarter against Freeport when he was injured with 53.8 seconds left.
Jones is one of Pekin's best shooters. At 6-foot-4, Taphorn is Pekin's second-tallest player behind the 6-7 Torrey. Each injured player is a starter.
So how did the Dragons pull off their comeback against Freeport with two of their starters sidelined?
Technically, an aggressive man-to-man defense. Taking charges. Making shots.
Psychologically, "adversity happens during a season and you have to respond to it," said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven. "We're going to need more of that until Max and Justin are back. Guys like Ryan (Collier), Cooper (Theleritis) and Seth (Kasinger) are going to have bigger roles."
Everybody on the Pekin team made contributions to the Dragons' win over Freeport. Some were big. Some were small.
Torrey scored 14 points and had a game-high nine rebounds. He was 7-for-8 from the field.
Brady Grashoff had 10 points and was 6-for-8 at the free throw line.
Cash had nine points, seven rebounds and two steals.
Collier and Durr each scored eight points. Collier was 3-for-3 from the field and 3-for-4 at the foul line.
Burns led Freeport with 15 points and Kaleb Dixson had 12.
The Pretzels finished with nine 3-pointers, but they had only three triples in the second half. They were 6-for-11 from behind the arc in the first half and 3-for-11 after halftime.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.