ROCK FALLS – Manny Pagan, Devin Stoker and Hayden Horst each have a row of zeros following their names in the box score from Monday's Class 3A Rock Falls Regional between Dixon and LaSalle-Peru.
However, their contributions to the Cavaliers' 57-43 win over the Dukes should not be underestimated.
The trio checked into the game for the first time with 2 minutes, 25 seconds left in the third quarter and the Cavs leading by a mere six points.
The only assignment for the three reserves was to eat some time and not allow the Dukes any closer.
They did that, forcing Dixon into two long offensive possessions that netted zero points – two low-percentage jumpers, at that – sandwiched around a turnover.
When starters like Jens Soderholm returned to the court with just over a minute left, the momentum was firmly in the hands of LaSalle-Peru.
"We ask them to come in and eat minutes, and that's what they did," LaSalle-Peru coach Jim Cherveny said. "It gave our starters a chance to catch their breath, and I think when they came back in, it was with more enthusiasm and energy."
LaSalle-Peru (18-9) scored the last five points of the quarter on a basket by Jon Von Behren and a 3-pointer by Brady Huebbe that put the Cavs up 40-29.
Dixon sophomore guard Laron Carr had a 5-0 spurt with a 3-pointer and then a steal leading to a layup to start the fourth quarter to draw the Dukes (3-25) within six at 40-34.
That's as close as it would get. A Noah Lamboley 3-pointer followed by five straight points by Von Behren put LaSalle-Peru comfortably ahead 48-34.
"It comes down to size, experience and depth," Dixon coach Jason Mead said. "It wasn't a lack of effort, but they didn't lose a game in our conference for a reason.
"We don't have the size or depth they have and, at this point, we are still young. Although, this is the last game we can use being young as an excuse. We come back next November with all these players, they won't be able to use inexperience as an excuse then."
Dixon nearly made up for the lack of the other things with spunk and the support of a full student section.
The Dukes jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Laron Carr started the rally with a basket, which was followed by a 3-pointer by Cal Jarrett.
After a LaSalle-Peru turnover, Matt Coffey hit the first of his three 3-pointers. Jarrett finished off the run by taking the ball strong to the hoop.
"We started the game hitting all our shots," Mead said. "We didn't hit some of those shots later in the second half, but we did a lot of nice things. Overall, I am happy with the effort and execution tonight."
The Cavs answered with an 8-0 run before another 3 by Coffey made it 13-8. The teams traded baskets to end the quarter to give Dixon a 15-10 edge.
By midway through the second quarter, LaSalle-Peru wrestled the lead away, taking a one-point advantage at 19-18 with 3:45 to play. The Cavs would not trail the rest of the way.
"We didn't expect them to come out quite that hard," Cherveny said. "They had a big fan section and got on a roll, but we have seniors that can handle adversity. They stayed calm and showed the leadership that we've come to expect from them."
Von Behren finished with 17 points, and Lamboley added 13. Soderholm had nine points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Three players accounted for 41 of Dixon's 43 points. Carr had 16, followed by Jarrett at 14. Coffey added 11 points.
Jarrett also had four assists.
LaSalle-Peru will play Ottawa today at 7:30 p.m. in a regional semifinal.
Star of the game: Jon Von Behren, LaSalle-Peru, 17 poijnts, 6 rebounds
Key performers: Laron Carr, Dixon, 16 points, 6 rebounds; Cal Jarrett, Dixon, 14 points, 4 assists; Noah Lamoboley, LaSalle-Peru, 13 points
Up next: 3A Rock Falls Regional, LaSalle-Peru vs. Ottawa, 7:30 p.m. today