Pekin impresses guest by pressing it full-court — Washington battles
PEKIN – Pekin boys basketball coach Joe Stoner specifically designed a full-court press for the Dragons’ regional semifinal game against Washington on Wednesday.
The blueprint, which Pekin hadn’t used in recent games, was successful in a 40-point victory over the Panthers in the Washington tournament Nov. 30. It worked again.
Pekin, seeded No. 2 in its own sectional complex, forced 22 turnovers in a 54-34 victory.
“Our kids have a good grasp of the defense we want to play,” Stoner said. “(The press) is a team-by-team situation.”
Pekin (21-6) will play host to Normal West (18-9), a 52-41 winner over Pontiac, in Friday’s regional championship game.
Pekin, with regular starting point guard Joe Brownfield seeing limited action because of the flu, used bursts of 10-0 and 15-0 in the first half to build a 33-17 halftime lead against 15th-seeded Washington.
Brownfield’s traditional three-point play with 1:45 left in the first quarter put Pekin up 15-3.
Six-foot-8 senior Todd Peterson scored five of his 12-point, 14- rebound performance in the first.
Washington (8-18) used an 11-3 spurt, started by a Drew Epley 3- pointer, to cut the deficit to 18-14 with 4:34 left in the second.
“We got – for the lack of a better term – lethargic defensively at times,” Stoner said. “This was one of those games that we have to force ourselves to be patient to get the best shot each possession and sometimes we didn’t.
“We know we have to play better.”
After a Pekin timeout, senior Brandon Dietrich broke the Dragons out of the drowsiness and scored seven points to start the 15-0 run that included six Panther turnovers.
Epley, who advanced in the King of the Hill competition with 10 makes before the game and had nine points, hit a buzzer-beater 3 from his hip while double-teamed to make the 33-17 intermission score.
“(Pekin) makes everything tough,” Washington coach Jeff Little said. “Every pass, every shot is contested. That’s a credit to Coach Stoner. He’s got his kids believing the defensive end of the floor is where you win games.”
When Washington did cross the timeline, Peterson, Dietrich (14 points), and Brody Utley (six rebounds) created havoc in the middle.
“Their inside guys just dominated tonight,” Little said. “They changed a lot of our shots. Our guys have played against guys that big and had their shots blocked, but for some reason we couldn’t score under the basket.”
Pekin built a 44-23 lead midway through the third with a 6-0 run, which included a transition layup from Derek Rademaker for two of his 13 points.
Freshman Jordan Morris led Washington with 10 points and seven boards while struggling to get good looks.
The teams were a combined 2-for-21 from the field and 4-for-14 from the free throw line in the fourth.
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