Dakota Bennington Drops 40 as EC Downs Fontbonne, 116-91

Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.
Photo courtesy of Summer Inselmann.

EUREKA — Fontbonne hung around as long as it could, but Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian) dropped a career-high 40 points and the Eureka men gradually buried the Griffins.

The Red Devils tallied 60 points in first half, tacked on 56 more in the second and walked off Dave Darnall Court with a 116-91 victory over Fontbonne in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action Saturday afternoon.

It tied with November's 116-69 win over Knox for EC's second-highest scoring performance of the season. With the victory, the Red Devils improved to 7-8 in the SLIAC and 8-13 on the year, and jumped ahead of the Griffins to land in sixth place the conference standings. Fontbonne fell to 9-14 and 7-9.

When he was on the court, Bennington was indefatigable for EC, shooting 13-for-22 from the field, 4-for-6 from distance and 10-for-11 from the free-throw line while gathering six rebounds and four steals in 29 minutes. He was particularly lethal in the first half, shooting 69.2 percent and tallying 27 points by halftime.  

Junior Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) also reached a new career high in scoring, posting 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting and knocking down 3 of 7 3-pointers.

Senior Hank Thomas (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods), meanwhile, continued his climb in the EC record book. With a 25-point, eight-assist showing, the 5-foot-8 guard moved up to eighth in scoring in program history with 1,413 total points and joined the top 10 in assists with 272 career dishes. He surpassed Jon Guderjan in points and Chris Peterson in assists.

Another senior, Alex Wiegand (Washington, Ill./Washington), added nine points to go with his team-high 13 boards, while classmate Donald Hardaway, Jr. (Lansing, Ill./Cimarron Memorial/Daley) chipped in with eight points off the bench.

The Red Devils shot a robust 51.9 percent from the field on the day, but before the Red Devils pulled away for good, they had to grind to maintain their position.

There were four lead changes early on, the last of came on a go-ahead Juergens 3-pointer that made it 25-22 less than seven minutes into the game. After that, EC went on a 12-2 run to seize control.

A jumper and a banked in triple by Hardaway extended the lead to double digits for the first time, and it stretched all the way to 15 after a quick 8-0 run that concluded with a layup by Kyle Henderson (Henry, Ill./Henry-Sanachwine/Elgin) with 5:24 left.

The Griffins chiseled it down to eight with less than a minute left, but a Thomas free throw, and then, 3-ball with time winding down made it 60-48 at the half.

EC opened the second half with a 13-6 run and led by as many as 30 points down the stretch. The home team racked up 53 rebounds to Fontbonne's 43, 46 points in the paint to the Griffins' 38 and 27 assists to the visitors' 24.

Fonbonne's Jared Woodcock led the Griffins with 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting. Gus Kleekamp, who went off for 29 the last time these teams met, had 13, as did Caden Clark.

The Red Devils kept Fontbonne leading scorer Luke DeLine relatively quiet, contributing just 10 points while shooting 4-of-13 from the floor.