It’s fair to say that the Pekin Panthers and the Sigourney Savages might have been affected by their games of the previous night.
On Friday, Sigourney scored a big win over rival Keota and Pekin was upset by Highland.
So as the teams lined up for the jump ball to start the non-conference basketball action, one team was looking to keep riding high and the other was looking to wash the bad taste from their mouth. Pekin held on late to win 62-61 Saturday night at Pekin.
Games between these neighboring schools have been referred to as ‘the backyard brawl’ or ‘the Skunk River rivalry.’ On this night, the added emotion was ‘the coaches game to fight cancer.’
Although one team had to lose, the winner was the fight against cancer. The fans from both schools helped the hosts (Pekin) raise nearly $4,000 before the final horn had sounded.
The Sigourney big men, Brandon Stuhr and Vaclav Bujnoch, each had a basket for a quick 4-0 Savage lead. Brody Long’s first basket brought Pekin into a tie at four and later his three point play on an out of bounds play kept Pekin even at seven.
Other than his five-point quarter, Long spent most of his night defending Bujnoch. He would hold the area’s leading scorer to just four opening quarter points.
“I thought I could be physical with him,” said Long. “I didn’t let it affect me on the offensive end because there are things that all of us need to do -- tired or not. It helps to have a group of post guys so we don’t have to worry about getting tired.”
Stuhr’s second basket forged a 9-9 tie at the midpoint of the first. Then the Pekin guards gave the Panthers a 14-9 lead. Graham Wittrock scored on a lay-up high off the glass and Cade Millikin buried a 3-pointer. Pekin led 14-11 after one.
Each coach expected a tight physical game and they weren’t disappointed. That’s just the kind of game that Panther Jared Cole likes.
He made his presence felt with an inside score to open the second for a 16-11 Pekin lead.
“He is our most physical player and I knew he’d be ready,” said Pekin coach Ken Hutchinson. “He made a couple of hustle plays that really got us going.”
Sigourney retook the lead at 21-18 on a 3-pointer by Kevin Weber. Consecutive baskets by Seth Jensen put the Panthers back up 24-23. Jackson Davis’ three-point play gave the Savages a 26-24 lead but two Wittrock free throws sent the teams to the locker rooom dead even at 26.
“I think last’s night game affected us some,” said Sigourney coach Mitch Eastlick. “I don’t think we matched their defensive intensity early in the game.”
After being held to just nine points in the first half, Bujnoch really started to heat up in the third. His early basket gave Sigourney a 28-26 lead. Bujnoch would have 11 of his game high 28 points in the quarter. Back to back baskets by Bujnoch gave the visitors a five point lead at 35-30. A Wittrock three pulled Pekin to within 35-33 and a three point play by Eric Adam cut the Sigourney lead to 37-36 with just over three minutes to play in the quarter. Pekin grabbed the lead 38-37 after two Cole free throws.
Pekin would go up 41-39 on a Millikin 3-pointer and after Bujnoch tied it with two foul shots, Cole banged inside to score and Pekin led 43-41. Again the Sigourney bigs scored back to back and the visitors led 45-43 after three.
Sigourney again took a five-point lead on a Bujnoch three. It was at this point that the Panthers went to full court pressure. The press did just what it should. It didn’t create a lot of turnovers but it forced the Savages to play at a faster tempo.
“They sped us up even though we did a pretty good job of taking care of the ball,” said Eastlick. “It forced us into a couple of quick decisions that didn’t really help us at that point of the game.”
“I think it also helped us pick up our half court defensive intensity as well,” added Hutchinson.
The increased pressure led to an 11-2 Panther run. In the four minute stretch Pekin would grab a 54-50 lead. The Panther guards accounted for 10 of the 11 points. Petie Clubb’s basket finally gave the lead back to Pekin at 52-50 and Millikin scored to end the run.
Millikin would have the big fourth for the Panthers. He would have nine of his 15 points in the eight minutes of action. He would also be involved in two highlight plays of the late going.
The first was a drive down the lane and a score over the Savage big men. His free throw to finish the three point play pulled the Panthers within one. After Sigourney tied it at 54, Cole’s three point play on an offensive putback gave Pekin a 57-54 lead.
Stuhr’s fifth and sixth points of the quarter from the line kept the visitors close at 58-56. Then came Millikin’s other big play. He scored on a run out against the press. He would pull in Wittrock’s long pass and finish for a 60-56 Pekin lead. The combination hooked up lots of times this past fall on the gridiron.
“I was able to make a couple of big baskets,” said Millikin. “This game was really about us knowing that we could play a total defensive game.”
Another 3-pointer by Bujnoch cut the lead to 60-59 with just under a minute to play. Two Pekin free throws made it 62-59 with under 20 seconds to play. Bujnoch scored again to again cut the Pekin lead to one.
All the Panthers had to do was inbound the ball. The Savage press forced a deflected ball on the first attempt. After the officials conferred, a jump ball was called and the ball stayed with the Panthers with just over three seconds to play. The second attempt went off a Panther and the visitors had one more shot at a win with just over two seconds to play.
The game’s final possession resulted in a missed shot and a rebound but the horn sounded to seal the 62-61 Pekin win. Pekin (11-7), who heads to Winfield-Mount Union and Sigourney (14-3), who hosts English Valleys Tuesady, treated the big crowd to a very good high school basketball game.
Pekin 62, Sigourney 61
Sig. 11 15 19 16 — 61
Pek 14 12 17 19 — 62
Sigourney (61) — Kyle Ferree 4, Jackson Davis 12, Blaine Gretter 2, Kevin Weber 3, Vaclav Bujnoch 28, Brandon Stuhr 12. Totals 22-49 11-15 61.
3-point goals — 6-16 (Davis, Weber, Bujnoch 4). Rebounds — 27 (Stuhr 9). Assists — 7 (Davis 3, Bujnoch 3). Steals — 6 (Davis 4). Blocks — 5 (Stuhr 4). Total fouls — 15. Turnovers — 11.
Pekin (62) — Petie Clubb 5, Graham Wittrock 14, Cade Millikin 15, Seth Jensen 7, Jared Cole 11, Brody Long 7, Eric Adam 3. Totals 22-56 15-20 62.
3-point goals — 3-15 (Wittrock, Millikin 2). Rebounds — 30 (Cole 7). Assists — 11 (Millikin 4). Steals — 7 (Clubb 4). Blocks — 2 (Jensen, Long). Total fouls — 14. Turnovers — 11.