EAST PEORIA — By cutting down on its turnovers, the East Peoria boys basketball team has made a big turnaround this season.

The Raiders have rebounded from a 1-5 start, and are now over .500, winning seven of their past eight outings.

Last weekend, EP went 3-0 in the Redbird Roundball Classic, including a 52-48 win over host Metamora.

"At the start of the year, it seemed like we were out of sorts," second-year EP coach Jon Grzanich said. "We were probably averaging 20 to 25 turnovers a game at the beginning of the year.

"We were just too loose with the basketball in the first half, and we were throwing it all over the gym. Now we’ve cut that down to 10-to-12 a game."

The Raiders (11-8) have won eight of their past nine outings, including a 62-51 decision over Limestone on Friday on the first night of the inaugural East Peoria Winter Classic boys basketball tournament.

"We’ve also rebounded and defended better, but the main transition from the beginning of the year has been cutting down on turnovers," Grzanich said. "Now the players realize the value of the basketball. If you don't turn it over, you get more offensive possessions. Hopefully, that turns into more points."

Offensively, the three top scorers for the Raiders have been seniors Jack Skaggs, Elijah Bennett and Jahlin Parker.

"We’ve been getting added production from a couple of guys in the middle — Ross Smith (6-foot-4) and Parker Bradford (6-4)," Grzanich said. "When we started playing better, they started scoring a combined 10 to 12 points a game. That has helped.

"Sophomore Jayden Williams has been having some nice games for us, getting double-figure scoring for us at times. And Rhyian Parker (a 6-2 guard) has become eligible, which has added to our depth and to our ability to put more pressure on the defensive end. He does a nice job of rebounding for us."

East Peoria is currently in the middle of the pack in the Mid-Illini standings at 5-4, including some tough losses.

"We've been in some games that we were capable of winning, but we weren’t finishing them," Grzanich said. "If we had won those games, we’d be right up there at the top of the conference. We’re close."

Grzanich is now hoping his team can make its way to the top portion of the standings by the end of the season.

"Right now we’re just trying to get better each game," he said. "I know it’s a coaching cliché, but we’re going to take it one game at a time, and try to get our guys to focus.

"In the Mid-Illini there’s really not a weak team. Any team could come in on any night and beat you. Our players have to have the approach of mentally being ready to play each and every night. If we’re not, we’re very susceptible to losing."

Johnny Campos can be reached at 686-3214 or at jcampos@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.