Panthers pocket Peters putback in prime time

Bryan Veginski
Washington sophomore Grant Johnson holds the ball out front in the second quarter Friday at East Peoria. The Panthers came back from a seven-point deficit to trim the Raider boys basketball team, 47-45.

In a battle of boys basketball teams going in the opposite direction Friday, Washington made a play when it was needed most.

The Panthers stretched their winning streak to nine games and extended East Peoria’s losing skid to four with a 47-45 Mid-Illini Conference victory at Allison Gymnasium.

Alec Peters hit the game-winner on a putback with three seconds left, breaking a tie and sending Washington (14-6, 7-1) to a season sweep of the Raiders.

Ben Ryan drove toward the hoop and after his attempt rolled off the rim, Peters was there to make a well-defended shot.

“My role was basically if the shot missed, to crash the boards,” said Peters.

Grant Johnson was a player who made a positive impact off the bench with seven timely points and some good decision-making.

“That’s why we come to practice every day,” WCHS head coach Kevin Brown said. “You don’t know who’s going to be called on.”

Ryan led the Panthers with 13 points, Mark Roth added 11 and Peters 10.

Field goals by Peters, Ryan and Mason McCoy ignited Washington to a 7-0 lead to open the game.

But East Peoria scored 12 of the next 16 points to go ahead for the first time.

Roth put the Panthers back on top after one quarter, 14-12, with the first of his trio of three-pointers.

The first half, and second quarter in particular, was foul-infested.

The Raiders shot 18 free throws, missing only once. That .944 accuracy at the line staked the home team to a 26-22 halftime edge.

“They did a great job bottling us up and taking some of our strengths away,” Brown said of the East Peoria defense.

One of the topics in the Washington discussion at intermission was turning around a rebounding deficit.

“We felt like in the first half we got beat on the boards pretty good,” said Brown. “We talked about we needed to get more hustle points.”

Roth and Peters both sank treys in the third quarter, but the Raiders separated to a 36-29 advantage with 2:16 to go.

The Panthers answered with an 8-0 spurt to end the period.

“That really gave us some momentum going into the fourth quarter,” said Peters.

Surrounding a Johnson two, Roth dialed long distance and Ryan completed an old-fashioned three-point play with 4.4 seconds left.

The fourth quarter was tight all the way. Neither team had more than a one-possession lead.

The Washington edge alternated between one and three points until a Dylan Sparkman make at 1:55 lifted East Peoria, 44-43.

Peters answered with an eight-footer along the baseline 33 seconds later.

Raider Corey Crotz took his 16th and 17th free throws at 1:04, making the second, for a 45-45 draw. Crotz was the game’s high scorer with 18 points.

The Panthers held for the final shot, using only a timeout with :19.8 to go.

After Peters’ huge bucket, Washington batted one East Peoria Hail Mary pass away at :01.6 and the next went out of bounds at the other end as time expired.

“They always play hard against us,” Brown said of the Raiders, adding the team will take any road win in the conference.