By Scott Jackson Ottumwa Courier
The Daily Iowegian
---- — How can a basketball team succeed when three players foul out and one opposing player goes for 30 points?
Pekin answered that question quite easily on Tuesday night. The Panthers used a 22-rebound edge to help build up as much as a 22-point lead against the Wayne Falcons Tuesday night on the way to a 71-60 win in Class 1A, District 10 semifinals.
Pekin never trailed in their 19th win of the season despite the heroics of Wayne senior Dillon Lain, who poured in a game-high 30 points. The Panthers also found a way to dominate the boards despite foul trouble eventually catching up to Brody Long, Jared Bond and Eric Adam – three of Pekin’s top four rebounders.
“We’ve got a pretty good bench and we had to go a bit deeper into it then we usually do,” senior Petie Clubb said. “The guys just came in and played the roles they were asked to play. Fundamentally, we played together pretty well throughout the game.”
Long and Bond were both able to corral big nights in the post before picking up their fifth fouls in the fourth quarter. Long led Pekin with his second straight postseason double-double, pulling in a game-high 14 rebounds while scoring a team-best 16 points.
Bond fell just short of the double-double mark, but had a stellar 10-point, eight-rebound effort. It all led to the Panthers doubling up Wayne on the boards with a 43-21 rebounding edge, including a 23-9 edge in offensive rebounds.
“We’ve been rebounding well all year,” Pekin head coach Ken Hutchinson said. “It really saved us in this game.”
Pekin’s ability to pound the boards early helped in establishing an early 12-4 edge against the Falcons. While Lain did his best to rally Wayne, scoring 14 points in the first half, the Panthers got a much more balanced effort with eight different players contributing to a 44-point first half.
Hutchinson saw plenty of value in several players stepping up for the Panthers throughout the contest.
“A balanced scoring effort prevents the defense from keying in on one guy,” Hutchinson said. “It allows several players to find open opportunities.”
Clubb gave Pekin a perimeter option to go with the interior play of Long and Bond. After being held scoreless while fouling out in the Panthers’ 88-31 district second round win over Seymour on Thursday, Clubb poured in 10 of his 11 points by halftime while helping the Panthers pull away in the second quarter by outscoring the Falcons 26-12.
“I think I shoot 26 percent from the 3-point line and here, I hit 50 percent (2-4),” Clubb said. “It was just one of those nights that you just step up into a rhythm and knock the shots down. It’s just a matter of finding the open person at the right time.”
With its season on the line, Lain and the Falcons didn’t go away quietly as an 11-3 start to the second half helped Wayne cut Pekin’s lead to 51-40. The Panthers countered with a 9-1 close to the third quarter, highlighted by a buzzer beating 3-pointer from Cade Millikin from just inside the half-court stripe.
It was the second straight postseason game that featured a highlight reel play for the Panthers. Keaton Winn, who had eight points and six rebounds on Tuesday, brought the house down at Pekin Gymnasium last Thursday with a slam dunk against Seymour.
“We always have that mindset of making a play that will energize our team,” Clubb said. “On Thursday, we needed that dunk to really get us going against Seymour. That (buzzer-beating 3-pointer) really sparked us. Making those plays every game is always a goal for us.”
Pekin will hope to add a district championship win to the highlight reel Thursday. The Panthers (19-3) will take on Van Buren (20-3) in a much-anticipated battle of the two Southeast Iowa Superconference champions.
“We’ve been playing for Van Buren for a few weeks now,” Clubb said. “If we play up to our potential, we’ll put a good fight against them.”