DIXON – The Dixon Dukes won three games all last season, one in the Northern Illinois Big 12 West.
Last year's extremely young Dixon team is a year older and is enjoying a lot more success, winning its fifth straight game to start the season and taking their conference opener with a 73-56 victory over Streator at Lancaster Gym.
Dixon nearly led from start to finish, but did not put the Bulldogs (0-5, 0-1) away until the final minutes.
Leading 56-54 with just over 6 minutes remaining, the Dukes, who started three juniors and two sophomores, went on the decisive run of the game. Dixon went on a 15-0 tear over the next 5 minutes.
Kyle LeBlanc (9 points) scored the first four points of the burst on a field goal and a pair of free throws. Cal Jarrett (21 points) hit a bucket and later added a free throw.
LeBlanc scored off a feed from Laron Carr (12 points) and Jarrett sank two free throws. Carr knocked down three of four free throws before Ryan Webb added another to make it 71-56 with 1:13 to play.
"At the end, we knew we had worked harder than them, so we came out and did what we were supposed to do," Jarrett said.
"I was really happy with how we finished," Dixon coach Jason Mead said. "We executed down the stretch really well."
Six-foot-six sophomore Isaiah Roby led the way for the Dukes, scoring all of his game-high 23 poits in the first three quarters. Roby is about 3 inches taller and 30 pounds heavier than a year ago. He was 9-for-13 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range.
Roby said the 3-point shot has always been a part of his game, though he did not show it much last season.
"I guess I wasn't confident in my shot," he said. "Over the summer, I got a lot more confident."
Dixon trailed just twice for mere moments, the first time at 13-12 in the first quarter, and the second at 23-21 early in the second quarter.
The Dukes ended the first half with a 12-3 burst to lead 35-26 at the break. Roby had an emphatic dunk off an inbounds pass to end the first-half scoring.
Roby hit a three to start the second-half scoring, giving Dixon a 12-point lead, their largest until their final push.
Streator fought back and pulled even at 43-all midway through the third quarter. The Dukes responded with a 9-0 flurry , but the Bulldogs whittled the difference to two twice early in the fourth quarter before Dixon put the game away.
The Dukes are not surprised by their solid start.
"We feel like we've worked harder than any team we're going to play," Jarrett said. "This shows that all the time we put in the gym is paying off."
"From all the hard work that we've put in, eventually this was going to come," Roby said.
Star of the game: Isaiah Roby, Dixon, 23 points, all in 1st 3 quarters
Key performers: Cal Jarrett, Dixon, 21 points; Nolan Sokol, Streator, 19 points; Laron Carr, Dixon, 12 points, 8 in 1st quarter
Up next: Dixon vs. Amboy at Amboy Shootout, 7:30 p.m. Saturday