Back on Nov. 28, the Pekin girls basketball team lost 63-30 to Normal West in the Dragons’ home opener.
Nearly three months later, the two teams met again in a Class 4A regional opener, once again on Pekin’s home court at Hawkins Gym.
It wasn’t a rout this time, but the result was the same. Normal West won 54-40, ending the Dragons’ season.
The game Monday night was close most of the way. Normal West led 21-17 at halftime and 32-26 after three quarters before finally pulling away from Pekin with a 22-point fourth quarter.
“We just couldn’t stop their run in the fourth quarter,” said Pekin coach Becky Fulkerson. “But the fact that we gave them a much better game than last time speaks volumes about how far we’ve come together as a team since then.
“Our girls left it all on the floor (Monday). They didn’t leave anything behind. We executed our game plan all night except for the last 5 1/2, six minutes of the fourth quarter.
“We’re the last seed (No. 11) in the sectional. Nobody expected us to do anything. So our girls went out and played like they had nothing to lose.”
Taylor Goss led the Dragons (10-19) with 10 points. Molly Flannigan and Maddy Cash, Pekin’s lone seniors, each had eight points. Tess Cascia and Lauren Juergens each had six points for the Dragons.
Ayanna Gibbs tossed in 23 points for No. 6 seed Normal West (17-9) and Jess Jacobs had 12. Gibbs and Jacobs combined for 18 of the Wildcats’ 22 points in the fourth quarter, with Gibbs scoring 10.
Pekin’s four competitors in the regional three-point shooting competition Friday will be Flannigan, Cash, Goss and Jenna Taphorn. The top four of 24 shooters will advance to the Champaign Centennial Sectional.
In Class 3A regional openers Monday night:
AT PEORIA NOTRE DAME: Peoria Manual beat Limestone 63-36.
Jakira Lobdell made five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 17 points for the Rams. Tiera Thomas scored 16.
“We shot the ball well,” Manual (11-17) coach Ken Banks said. “Jakira Lobdell led us in scoring and was big for us tonight. We didn’t want the season to end.”
The Rams faced Peoria Richwoods on Tuesday night.
Lena Driscoll led the Rockets (7-19) with 11 points.
Notre Dame beat East Peoria 48-30.
Senior Kaitlyn Osmulski led the Irish with 12 points. Junior Lexi Snyder added 10 for ND. East Peoria was led by freshman Madelyne Aaron with a game-high 14 points.
Notre Dame faced Geneseo on Tuesday night.
AT METAMORA: Streator beat Illinois Valley Central 40-33.
Freshman Natalie Haynes led the Bulldogs (4-22) with a game-high 16 points.
Sophomore Tiffany Mallow led IVC (2-22) nine points and junior Katie Tiller added eight.
Peoria Journal Star contributed to this report. Steve Stein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.