Dunlap's Saniya Tutt turned the last nine seconds of Friday's girls basketball game against Pekin into her own personal highlight reel.

The 5-foot-6 sophomore stole Pekin's in-bounds pass under the Dunlap basket and, after a timeout, made a buzzer-beating layup to give the undefeated Eagles a 44-42 win over Pekin in a Mid-Illini Conference opener in Hawkins Gym.

Tutt's heroics capped a furious fourth-quarter comeback by Dunlap that erased a 33-21 lead the Dragons took into the final eight minutes and turned what could have been an upset win for first-year Pekin coach Brett McGinnis in his first home game into a disappointing loss.

Dunlap (5-0, 1-0) outscored Pekin 23-9 in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of its strength and the Dragons' weakness.

"We're quick and athletic, and we played the fourth quarter with heart and energy," said Dunlap coach Heather Cassady.

Pekin (2-4, 0-1) committed eight of its 20 turnovers in the quarter.

"Turnovers. That's our Achilles heel," McGinnis said. "Dunlap really amped up the pressure on their press in the fourth quarter. It's difficult to simulate that kind of speed and pressure in practice. You have to get better during games."

Tutt's game-winning drive to the hoop gave Dunlap its first lead since the Eagles were ahead 19-18 late in the second quarter.
Pekin led 21-19 at halftime and pulled away from Dunlap thanks to a solid third quarter.

The Dragons held Dunlap to two points in the quarter on a pair of free throws by Ellie Sorenson with 1:12 left. The Eagles were 0-for-12 from the field in the quarter including four missed 3-pointers.

"We played well the first three quarters," McGinnis said. "Our execution and decision-making were good and we took care of the ball for the most part."

Dunlap scored more points in the fourth quarter (23) than it did the first three quarters (21), was 8-for-14 from the field and 4-for-5 at the free throw line.

Tutt, who had eight of her 10 points in the fourth quarter, made a pair of free throws with 1:47 left in the game to finally draw Dunlap even at 40-40.

Sophomore Taylor Goss, who scored all nine of Pekin's points in the fourth quarter and had a game-high 20 points, put the Dragons back in front 42-40 with two free throws with 30 seconds to go.

Dunlap's Taraji Davis tied the game again at 42-42 with two free throws with 9.6 seconds left, setting the stage for Tutt's game-winning moves.

"This is always a tough game for us because it's hard to play here (Hawkins Gym) when you're not used to playing here," Cassady said. "As a player, you're used to seeing walls behind baskets, not open spaces.

"With a new coach (McGinnis), we expected the unexpected from Pekin, but we knew Pekin would play hard and with a lot of energy for their new coach."

Dunlap shot just 29 percent from the field (14-for-48) to Pekin's 35 percent (15-for-43).
The Dragons were 10-for-11 at the free throw line and outrebounded Dunlap 31-18, but Dunlap had just nine turnovers to Pekin's 20.

Lauren Juergens and Natalie Righi each scored eight points for Pekin, which didn't have starter Tess Cassia for most of the game after she suffered a knee injury. Jalissa Parker led Dunlap with 11 points.

Pekin has played a lot of close games this season. 

The two-pointer Friday night was added to a pair of one-point games and an overtime game. The Dragons have lost most of the nail-biters.

"We need to learn from those experiences," McGinnis said.

Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.