Trailing nearly the entire game and by nine points early in the fourth quarter, the Pekin boys basketball team made a stirring comeback.
But the rally fell just short.
Jalen Hosea calmly sank two free throws with three seconds left Saturday night to give Peoria Richwoods a 42-40 win over the Dragons in a non-conference game at Richwoods.
Pekin coach Jeff Walraven called a timeout with 5:01 to go and his team down 38-29 after Richwoods scored the first five points of the fourth quarter.
The Dragons (7-10) didn't allow a field goal the rest of the game and tied the score 40-40 with about 10 seconds left on a perfectly executed pass from Christian Hill at the top of the key to Jace Link, who had an uncontested layup.
But Hosea was fouled on the ensuing Richwoods possession, made his free throws on his first trip to the line in the game, and Brady Grashoff's potentially game-winning mid-court shot for Pekin fell short at the buzzer.
It was a trying night for both coaches.
"That was a nice comeback in the fourth quarter, but it's too bad we were down nine," Walraven said. "We executed our offense on one play all night ... Jace's layup.
If we had a 50 percent efficiency rate, we wouldn't have been in the predicament of having to fight back."
Richwoods (11-7) was coming off a 30-point loss to Danville the previous night and missing two starters who were serving the second game of a two-game suspension.
Then the Knights nearly let a win slip away.
"We relaxed defensively and five turnovers hurt us after we got up nine (against Pekin)," said Richwoods coach William Smith. "We're glad to get the win against a tough team."
Hosea and Dallas Bryson were a two-man wrecking crew for the Knights.
They combined for 31 of their team's 42 points, with Hosea scoring 18 and Bryson contributing 13.
Hosea shot 6-for-7 from the field, 4-for-5 on triples, and the 5-foot-9 senior also had four steals. Bryson took down seven rebounds.
When the two scored was crucial.
Hosea tossed in Richwoods' first eight points and 12 in the first half. Richwoods led 19-15 at the break.
After going scoreless in the first half -- partially because he sat out a substantial portion because of foul trouble -- Bryson exploded for 11 points in the third quarter.
The 6-6 senior made three consecutive 3-point shots, the first two from nearly the exact same spot on the baseline.
Thanks to Bryson's efforts, Richwoods led 33-29 after three quarters.
"Jalen and Dallas are our senior captains, and they stepped up," Smith said. "Jalen did what a veteran point guard is supposed to do, handle Pekin's pressure late in the game."
Link led Pekin with 15 points. The 6-4 senior was 5-for-7 from the field, made all four of his free throws, and had four assists.
Adam Cash had nine points, Justin Taphorn had eight points, and Mitchell Cascia grabbed seven rebounds and had two steals for the Dragons.
AT THE LINE: Pekin was 6-for-9 at the free throw line and Richwoods was 4-for-4. The Knights scored their final four points on free throws.
ONE IN, ONE OUT: Patrick Torrey returned to action Saturday for Pekin after sitting out two games because of an injury. The 6-7 junior saw limited action and grabbed two rebounds. But senior guard Jack Halstead wasn't able to play for the Dragons because of the flu.
"Patrick practiced this week. Now we have to get him acclimated to playing again," Walraven said.
TWO OUT: Josh McElrath and Jaydion Davis were the Richwoods starters who missed the game Saturday because of suspensions.
NEW DATE: Pekin's Mid-Illini Conference game against Metamora that was postponed last Thursday because of icy roads has been rescheduled for Friday.
Steve Stein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.