Metamora did what it wanted to do Saturday night.
"We had to jump on them quickly, and we did," said Redbirds boys basketball coach Danny Grieves after Metamora beat Pekin 61-46 in a Mid-Illini Conference game at Hawkins Gym.
Metamora led 22-9 after the first quarter, achieving its goal of putting an early damper on the Dragons' Senior Night emotions. It was an uphill battle for Pekin (11-14, 7-6) from there.
Collin Dietz and Thomas Hall scored all the Redbirds' points in the first quarter. Dietz had 13 points and Hall had nine.
Metamora (15-11, 9-4) scored 11 straight points to end the quarter and the streak stretched to 13 points early in the second quarter before Pekin put an end to it. Dietz had 10 of the 13 points in the run.
"Our defense wasn't good in the first quarter," said Pekin coach Jeff Walraven.
It was better in the second quarter, and the Dragons closed within 27-22 at halftime.
A three-pointer by Pekin's Jack Halstead to start the second half made it 27-25, but a four-point play by Hall put Metamora up 31-25 with 6:19 to go in the third quarter.
"We got within two points, then we lost one of their shooters (Hall) on defense he made a three," Walraven said.
Pekin was no closer than five points the rest of the way, thanks in large part to Metamora's spot-on free throw shooting.
Andrew Buis made three foul shots late in the third quarter after he was fouled on a triple, and the Redbirds were 17-for-21 at the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
Metamora finished 24-for-32 on foul shots to Pekin's 6-for-11.
"We needed to make our free throws in the second half because we knew Pekin wasn't going to go away," Grieves said. "They'll always give you a fight."
Dietz finished with 22 points on a bruising night when the 6-foot-5 junior was left stunned on the floor in the second quarter after a collision with Pekin's Mitchell Cascia, suffered a cut on his left hand in the third quarter, and fell hard when he was fouled in the fourth quarter.
Hall had 13 points and seven rebounds. The 6-8 junior was 4-for-5 on triples.
Clayton Bachman matched Hall's seven rebounds for Metamora and Peyton Havens scored eight points on 8-for-10 free throw shooting in the fourth quarter.
The Redbirds outrebounded Pekin 34-21 including 10 offensive boards.
"We have an inside presence we haven't had for a while. That interior game was crucial against Pekin's 2-3 zone defense," Grieves said, referring to the interior work done by Dietz, Hall and Bachman.
Jace Link led Pekin with 15 points. He also had six rebounds. The Dragons' Adam Cash had 10 points and Halstead had eight points.
Pekin shot just 37 percent from the field (16-for-43).
"We were getting open looks on shots we make 90 percent of the time in practice," Walraven said.
It was the final regular-season home game for Pekin seniors Link, Halstead, Cascia and Christian Hill. Link is a three-year player and the other three have been on the team for two years.
This is the fourth year in the Pekin boys basketball program for all four.
"Our seniors are all great kids, and it's been a pleasure watching them develop as basketball players and young men. They'll all be successful in whatever they do in the future," Walraven said.
"It's not easy to be in a high school basketball program for four years. It takes an enormous amount of commitment and dedication."
Link hopes to play basketball in college. Halstead would like to play golf in college and Hill is hoping to play football in college. Cascia plans to attend the University of Illinois and study to be an engineer.
Steve Stein can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.