LaSALLE – There is always a race on the scoreboard to see which basketball team can end up with the most points at the final buzzer, but Dixon coach Nick Oraham had a specific number in mind.
If his Dukes could beat Metamora to the 40-point mark Wednesday night in a 3A LaSalle-Peru Sectional semfinal, he thought Dixon would have a good chance at winning its first sectional game since 1969.
Instead, it was the Redbirds that won the race to 40, while the Dukes never got there in a 43-36 loss.
Dixon (17-16) started the second half on a 10-4 run to go up 25-19 midway through the third quarter. The Dukes hit their first four shots of the third, as Derian Duncan had a 3 and coast-to-coast layup, Beau Bailey drilled a jumper from the elbow, and Gabe Sohn scored inside.
But the scoring cooled off in a hurry for Dixon, as Metamora (18-11) went on a 10-0 run to close the third and start the fourth quarter. The Redbirds jumped ahead for good at 27-25 within the first minute of the fourth on a pair of buckets by Collin Dietz. The run was capped by a layup from Clayton Bachman with 6:02 remaining.
“They were getting stops,” Dixon coach Nick Oraham said of Metamora. “They’re a really good team. They fly around, they have length, and they have quickness at virtually all positions. Their six really bothered us, and so did our physicality. Really it was our inability to get stops down the stretch that was the difference.”
Payton Lawrence grabbed a defensive rebound and made a long outlet pass to Bailey for a layup to stop the run, but Dietz answered with a bucket inside and a three-point play to effectively put the game on ice. The 6-foot-5 junior scored 13 of his team-high 15 points for the Redbirds in the second half.
“I just missed a lot of layups in the first half,” Dietz said. “Coach just told me to keep attacking, and that’s what I did. They started to fall, and I think that got us going.”
Bailey made a jumper and a layup in transition to give the Dukes their first lead at 7-6 with 1:37 left in the first quarter, and Arthur Cox’s second 3 of the period beat the buzzer, giving Dixon a 10-9 edge after one.
After a putback by Thomas Hall, and a Payton Havens drive-and-dish to Bachman for a layup gave Metamora a 15-12 advantage, Oscar Van Sickle tied it at 15 with 1:13 left on his first shot attempt of the game, a 3 from the corner that hit nothing but net to make it a 15-all tie at halftime. Each team had just six field goals in the first half.
Hall had 11 points and eight rebounds for Metamora, who also defeated the Dukes 44-38 back on Nov. 24 at Ottawa’s Dean Riley Tournament. The Redbirds missed eight layups in the first half, but Dietz and the 6-foot-8 Hall converted in the final 16 minutes.
“They were pressing defensively, and we were trying to space them out and slip to the basket to get easy baskets,” Metamora coach Danny Grieves said. “We got our big guys going. We tried in the first half, but in the second half, those guys came through.”
The Redbirds shot 40 percent (17-for-42) from the field, but made 7 of their 8 free throws. Dietz also grabbed seven rebounds. Andrew Buis added 10 points and three boards for Metamora, which will battle Sterling for the sectional title on Friday in a rematch of last year’s regional semifinals at Peoria Richwoods. The Warriors won that game 60-44.
Dixon shot 42 percent (15-for-36) from the floor, but made just 1 of 4 free-throw attempts. Bailey led the way with 15 points and eight rebounds, but was hounded all night by several Redbird defenders.
“They sagged off and face-guarded me,” Bailey said. “They had height. Their posts are very good. We fought and battled.”
Sohn chipped in seven points and three rebounds for the Dukes. Duncan and Van Sickle were held to just five and three points, respectively, as the two guards combined for just six shot attempts.
3A LaSalle-Peru Sectional semifinal
Metamora 43, Dixon 36
Star of the game: Collin Dietz, Metamora, 15 points (13 in 2nd half), 7 rebounds, 1 assist
Key performers: Beau Bailey, Dixon, 15 points, 8 rebounds, 1 steal; Thomas Hall, Metamora, 11 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal; Andrew Buis, Metamora, 10 points, 3 rebounds