There was a court-storming Tuesday night in Hawkins Gym.
And for a good reason. There was a case of March Madness in February.
The Pekin boys basketball team shocked Normal Community 58-54 in a Class 4A regional semifinal game, sending the No. 3-ranked Ironmen to the sidelines, ending their 16-game winning streak and avenging a 51-32 loss in early December.
The red-hot Dragons (16-12), winners of 10 of their last 12 games but seeded No. 8 in the regional, led No. 1 seed Normal Community (25-4) nearly the entire night.
They trailed only after the Ironmen scored the game’s first basket.
“What did we do well? I wish I could bottle it,” said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven. “It came down to us executing on offense and defense, making shots, rebounding and making free throws.”
The Dragons were 18-for-22 at the free throw line including 11-for-13 in a frantic fourth quarter that saw Normal Community twice climb within two points.
Four Pekin players scored in double figures. Tyler Durr had 14 points, Brady Grashoff had 13, Max Jones had 12 and Patrick Torrey, the Dragons’ lone senior starter, had 11 points along with 10 rebounds.
Jones was a perfect 6-for-6 on free throws. Grashoff was 4-for-4 and Durr was 3-for-3.
It was Durr’s best game of the season, both in the scorebook and intangibles. He scored eight of his 14 points in the first quarter.
“Tyler played under control. He didn’t let the moment get to him, and he made the right decisions with the ball,” Walraven said. “He was our ‘X’ factor.”
Durr, a 5-foot-11 junior, said it was probably the best game he’d ever played. Then he quickly deflected the conversation to his teammates.
“We were confident we could win if we played together and did what our coaches told us,” he said. “It was a great feeling when the final buzzer went off.”
Three players scored 47 of Normal Community’s 54 points.
Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit C.J. Wilbourn had 22 points, 1,000-point career scorer Daylen Boddie had 15 and Blake Foster had 10.
Unlike Pekin, the Ironmen struggled at the foul line, going 11-for-20.
Pekin led 13-5 after the first quarter, 28-16 at halftime and 38-30 after three quarters.
The Dragons built their lead to 11 points (43-32) on a triple by Grashoff with 6:39 left in the game, but the Ironmen rallied twice to trail by two points (43-41 and 56-54).
Six straight free throws by Grashoff, Torrey and Jones built Pekin’s lead to 49-41 after Normal Community first came within two points on back-to-back triples by Boddie and Wilbourn.
An out-of-bounds play -- after another Boddie triple -- that began under the Normal Community basket and led to an uncontested layup by Adam Cash in the final seconds clinched the Dragons’ victory.
After the Ironmen missed their last shot of the night and Torrey rebounded, Jones happily slammed the ball to the court as he dribbled out the final seconds.
“Normal Community is a great team that starts five seniors. We knew they were going to make runs and come at us hard,” Walraven said. “We have a lot of juniors and even though they’ve played all season, this was their first time playing with this kind of pressure. They handled it well.”
The Ironmen fell into a hole in which they couldn’t climb out in part because of their ineffective shooting.
They were 4-for-16 from the field in the first half and finished 18-for-46 for 39 percent. They didn’t make a triple until the third quarter and ended up 5-for-22 from behind the arc.
Pekin shot 42 percent from the field (17-for-40) including 6-for-15 on three-pointers.
The Dragons didn’t have a turnover in the first half and finished with only six.
And they kept their composure after having two technical fouls called on them in the second quarter, one for having six men on the court and one for a retaliation after a foul was called on Normal Community.
Walraven said the win was one of the biggest if not the biggest in his six years as the Dragons’ coach.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve played for a regional championship since I’ve been coach.”
Pekin will face the winner of Wednesday’s regional semifinal game between No. 4 seed Rock Island and No. 6 seed East Moline for the regional title at 7 p.m. Friday.
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.