EUREKA -- Hank Thomas (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods H.S.) pumped in 30 points and Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian H.S./Olivet Nazarene) tacked on 25 as part of a 14-for-16 effort at the foul line, but visiting Monmouth overcame a slim halftime deficit to notch a 101-91 season-opening non-conference victory, Saturday night at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center.
Thomas made 11 field goals, three of which came from beyond arc, to go along with five assists and four rebounds. Jordan Dehm (Metamora, Ill./Metamora H.S.) and Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin H.S.) netted 11 points apiece and Donald Hardaway, Jr. (Lansing, Ill./Cimarron Memorial/Daley) set a new personal best with 10 points off the bench.
The Red Devils trailed by as many as seven points late in the first half before storming back to grab a halftime advantage. Bennington's jam at the 2:25 mark of the period put the exclamation point on a 12-3 burst that gave the hosts a 38-36 lead, their first since 2-0. The two squads traded the lead four more times before intermission, including a 3-pointer from Thomas at the horn for a 43-42 lead.
Monmouth's Will Carius converted a 3-point play at the 17:57 mark of the second half to move the Scots back in front, 47-45. MC wouldn't give up the lead for the rest of the night. Eureka was within a single possession as late as the 7:50 mark when Juergens made two free throws to trail 71-69, but Carius answered less than a minute later and the lead would be at least two possessions the rest of the way.
Eureka will hit the road Tuesday for a 6:30 p.m. non-conference start at Grinnell in Grinnell, Iowa.