There were glimpses into the future of the Pekin boys basketball team this season.
Five underclassmen got substantial playing time during a year in which the Dragons finished 12-15 overall and 8-6 in the Mid-Illini Conference, good for fourth place in the eight-team league.
“Several of our young guys got a ton of experience. Hopefully, it will pay dividends. There were flashes of potential during the season,” said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven.
Freshman Adam Cash and sophomores Justin Taphorn, Brady Grashoff and Max Jones all had a lot of time on the floor. So did junior Patrick Torrey, who will most likely be the lone senior on the team next season.
“Patrick played his best basketball in the final third of the season,” Walraven said about the 6-foot-7 center.
“He expects a lot from himself and he gets frustrated at times. During the latter part of the season, he did a better job of playing through those frustrations. He didn’t let them envelope him.
“Basketball is a game where you have to be ready for the next play no matter what just happened. You play offense and defense, one after the other. There’s no time to step out of the batter’s box or go into a huddle.”
Consistency was Pekin’s strong suit and downfall this season.
“When we knocked down shots, limited our turnovers and did a good rebounding defensively, we won,” Walraven said. “When we didn’t, we lost.”
Pekin was swept in conference games by Morton, Washington and Metamora, the three teams that finished in front of the Dragons in the Mid-Illini standings.
But the Dragons lost to Washington in triple overtime and were overcome by Metamora in the fourth quarter of close games, both on the road.
“It would have been nice to at least split with those three teams,” Walraven said. “We didn’t shoot well in either of our games against Morton.”
Most importantly, Walraven said, he coached a team this season filled with “great kids.”
“I enjoyed coaching them,” he said. “Our four seniors (Jace Link, Christian Hill, Jack Halstead and Mitchell Cascia) worked hard for four years and have bright futures ahead of them.”
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.