It was a grand night Friday for Maddy Cash. It almost was a grand night for the Pekin girls basketball team.
Cash reached the 1,000-point plateau for her career and the Dragons gave Canton a battle before losing 61-53 in a Mid-Illini Conference game at Hawkins Gym.
The big moment for Cash came with 5:38 to go in the fourth quarter when she stepped to the free throw line. The 5-foot-8 senior made the front end of a bonus situation, giving her 17 points for the night and 1,000 for her career.
Cash missed her next free throw. The game was stopped 21 seconds later after Cash was fouled, and she was honored for her historic accomplishment in a brief mid-court ceremony after receiving hugs from teammates.
Cash was given a basketball during the ceremony by Pekin coach Becky Fulkerson, but not the game ball. She got that after the game.
"Our plan was to give Maddy the game ball when the game was stopped, but the backup game ball didn't have enough air so we couldn't use it in the game," Fulkerson said.
Cash finished with 20 points in the game, giving her 1,003 for her career. She's only the second Pekin girls basketball player to reach the 1,000-point mark, following
Sydney Diekhoff, who had 1,678 points in four seasons (2013-2017).
This is Cash's third full season with the Dragons. Fulkerson said Cash is more than a scorer.
"Maddy is a strong defender, and she's a tough player. She takes a lot of hits and bounces right back," Fulkerson said. "She's a great shooter. Her form and rhythm are excellent.
"Like Sydney, Maddy brings a lot to the game. And they're both humble."
Cash played Friday with the pinky finger on her right hand taped. She injured the finger in Pekin's previous game, a loss Jan. 27 to Morton.
Backcourt partner Molly Flannigan almost stole Cash's thunder Friday. Flannigan tossed in a runner from mid-court at the halftime buzzer, giving Pekin a 21-20 lead at the break.
That turned out to be the Dragons' only lead of the game.
Canton (21-5, 10-2) exploded for 24 points in the third quarter, including a nine-point run that put the Little Giants in front 36-24, and Pekin (9-16, 2-10) couldn't recover.
Canton led 44-34 after three quarters. The Dragons came no closer than five points in the fourth quarter (46-41) when Cash split a pair of free throws after she was honored.
The Little Giants helped their cause by going 16-for-19 at the foul line in the second half after a 4-for-9 free throw effort in the first half.
"We talked at halftime about getting back to what we needed to do," said first-year Canton coach Jessica Jones. "We weren't running our offense and we had to step up our defense. We lost Cash a couple of times and she hurt us."
Fulkerson pointed to a couple of areas that hurt the Dragons during the night.
"We gave up eight offensive rebounds to Canton that they turned into 11 points," she said. "And we missed 11 free throws (Pekin was 15-for-26 at the line).
"But our girls played well. We have nothing to lose right now. There's not much we can do differently this late in the season, so we might as well play hard and battle."
Cash went 8-for-10 on free throws en route to her 20-point night.
Flannigan scored 11 points for Pekin and Taylor Goss had nine. The Dragons grabbed 30 rebounds, but shot only 34 percent from the field (16-for-46) and committed 18 turnovers.
Cassidy Fawcett and Teri Oaks each scored 15 points for Canton and Anna Plumer had 12. Fawcett was 7-for-8 on free throws.
The Little Giants shot 40 percent from the field (19-for-47) and had only nine turnovers.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.