Pekin lost its home opener Friday night, but the Dragons made Morton work for the win.
The Potters made more big plays down the stretch and got a huge contribution from an unexpected source as Morton beat Pekin 56-48 in Hawkins Gym in a Mid-Illini Conference boys basketball game.
“That’s a good team, an experienced team,” Morton coach Matt Franks said about the Dragons. “They have everyone back from last year except (Jace Link, who graduated). I’m real proud of our guys for getting a tough win on the road.”
The usual Morton suspects hurt Pekin (2-5, 1-1). Barik Olden had 21 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots and Jarrett Crider scored eight points, all in the last nine minutes of the game.
Eric Hanson emerged from behind the shadows of Morton’s “Big Two” to score 15 points and grab six rebounds.
The 5-foot-9 senior guard scored eight straight points for his team midway through the fourth quarter on a pair of triples from the same spot in the corner and a rebound of a missed shot.
When Hanson was done, the Potters (7-1, 2-0) led 45-41 and they pulled away from there.
“Eric has been solid all year, and he had a big night tonight,” Franks said. “He got some open looks and he knocked down the shots.”
Pekin coach Jeff Walraven said his team put itself into position to win, but couldn’t get over the hump.
Max Jones’ 3-pointer with seven minutes left in the game knotted the score at 35-35, but the Dragons never took the lead.
“We focused on Olden and Crider, of course, and made Olden work for his points, but Hanson made some big shots,” Walraven said. “I thought our defense was good. This was a 100 percent better game for us than Tuesday (a 51-32 loss to Normal Community). We put a much better product on the floor.”
Patrick Torrey led Pekin against Morton with 11 points, making 5-of-7 shots from the field. The 6-7 senior also had seven rebounds and two blocked shots.
Ryan Collier and Justin Taphorn each had 10 points for Pekin and Jones had nine.
NOTES: Barik Olden scored 12 of Morton’s 16 points in the first quarter as the Potters took a 16-11 lead. ... Morton was not called for a foul in the opening quarter. ... The Potters didn’t shoot a free throw until late in the third quarter, but they finished 9-for-13 at the foul line. ... Pekin was 10-for-16 on foul shots, but made its last seven. ... The Dragons had only six turnovers, a far cry from the 18 they committed in their win over Dunlap on Nov. 29 in a Mid-Illini opener.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.