Win-starved Peoria High tested the Rock Island boys basketball team Monday night.
It was a late-season exam that the Rocks passed, withstanding a second-half surge by the Lions to advance 63-53 with an opening-round victory in Illinois Class 4A regional play at the Rock Island Fieldhouse.
“We kept our composure, just played our game,’’ Rocks junior JaMir Price said. “It’s the postseason, you’ve got to take care of business.’’
The Rocks did just that, riding the hot second-half shooting of Randy Tucker and Price’s fourth-quarter touch at the line to advance to a regional semifinal game against Bloomington (19-7) on Wednesday at Rock Island.
Peoria High forced the Rocks to earn that opportunity, overcoming a 28-22 halftime deficit to take its only lead of the game when Cortez Mosley hit two free throws to give the Lions a 40-39 lead with 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Price tied the game at the line 22 seconds later, then pushed Rock Island in front 42-40 with two of his game-high 19 points with :11 remaining in the third quarter.
A basket by Peoria High’s Christopher Williams tied the game a little over a minute into the final quarter but Tucker took over from there.
“When they came after us, we responded,’’ Price said. “We settled down, kept playing, and Randy hit some big baskets for us right when we needed them.’’
Scoreless while dealing with foul trouble in the first half, the senior needed less than three minutes to score the Rocks’ first nine points of the quarter on his way to a 17-point performance.
Tucker buried a three-point basket from the right baseline to give Rock Island a 45-42 edge, was fouled and knocked down a free throw after scoring on a drive through the heart of the lane and moved the Rocks (16-11) in front 51-45 when he hit a three from the left wing with 5:06 to play.
“We ran a couple of sets to get him going and he then hit some big shots. That’s a senior stepping up in the postseason,’’ Rock Island coach Thom Sigel said. “JaMar got us going early, attacking on the drive, and Ben (Ellis) was working all over the place.’’
Price finished 9-of-10 at the line, where Ellis collected six of his 14 points as part of 22-of-29 effort by Rock Island at the stripe that included a 14-of-19 effort that helped the Rocks open a 24-14 lead with just under three minutes left in the second quarter.
“They put a little more pressure on us than they have been showing, but I felt like our guys did a nice of attacking it, getting to the line and then making the free throws,’’ Sigel said.
Mosley scored all but two of his 16 points in the final two quarters for the Lions (8-18), who lost their final 11 games of the season.
“They were a better team than their record, which didn’t surprise me,’’ Sigel said. “They came out ready and made us earn it, which is what you expect this time of year.’’