Not again. Yep, it was a familiar script Thursday night for the Pekin girls basketball team.

The Dragons relinquished a late lead -- this time, 13 points with three minutes left in the third quarter -- and lost 56-44 to small-school power Midwest Central/Delavan in Hawkins Gym.

Down 34-21, the visiting Raiders (11-2) outscored Pekin 35-10 the rest of the way.

Losing late leads and close games has plagued Pekin (2-9) this season. This was the fourth game the young Dragons could have won with a strong finish.

“Midwest Central amped up the pressure on their press (late in the third quarter) and we didn’t make good decisions against the same press we handled earlier in the game,” said Pekin coach Brett McGinnis.

“Earlier, we were breaking the press, making simple plays, and getting layups.”

Pekin led 26-17 at halftime, but only 34-32 after three quarters. Midwest Central/Delavan had a 24-10 margin over the Dragons in the final quarter.

There have been encouraging signs for Pekin in each frustrating loss, and Thursday was no exception.

Jenna Taphorn led the Dragons with a career-high 17 points. She made three 3-point shots. Taylor Goss had a dozen points and Lauren Juergens had 10 points for Pekin, mostly thanks to hard work inside.

Mady Harper scored 18 points for Midwest Central/Delavan. Annah Miller had 15 points and Megan Teal had 10.

“(Harper) does a great job handling the ball,” McGinnis said about Midwest Central/Delavan’s all-time assist leader.

So it’s back to the drawing board for the Dragons, who are off until they play at home Tuesday against East Peoria in a Mid-Illini Conference game.

“Tiger Woods has often said, ‘Winning takes care of everything,’” said McGinnis, former coach of the Pekin boys golf team. “I’m sure if we can win one of these close games, that will go a long way to solving our problems.”

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