Eureka Men Race Past Iowa Wesleyan — And Into SLIAC Tourney, 110-77

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

EUREKA — There was plenty of drama to go around in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference on Saturday, and the Eureka men made sure there wasn't any happening in their house.

After four seniors were honored at a pregame ceremony, they took Dave Darnall Court with the intention of turning a must-win game into a rout.  

Less than two hours later, the Red Devils had claimed a 110-77 SLIAC victory over Iowa Wesleyan and – with the help of an 81-75 MacMurray win over Westminster— earned a trip back to the SLIAC tournament.

With Fontbonne's 78-70 victory over Spalding, the Red Devils clinched the third seed in the tournament. They'll face Greenville at Webster on Friday at 6 p.m. If they can beat the Panthers again, they'll face the winner of Blackburn and Webster in the championship game Saturday at 7.

"Winning on senior night just means so much," senior Hank Thomas said. "And the fact that we win and everything went our way, for Westmin to lose, Spalding lost; we get the three seed … I just can't ask for much more as a senior."

Thomas (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) led the way with a 37-point, 6-assist performance on 13-of-19 shooting, including 9 of 12 3-pointers.

Junior Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian/Olivet Nazarene) added 16 points, senior Alex Wiegand (Washington, Ill./Washington) contributed 10 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two assists and junior Jordan Dehm (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds to go with five points and three assists.

Senior Donald Hardaway Jr., (Lansing/Cimarron Memorial/Daley) tallied eight points and three rebounds in his third start of the season, and senior Kyle Robison (South Wilmington, Ill./Gardner-South Wilmington) chipped in with seven points and four rebounds in the first start of his career.

Fourteen Red Devils scored, and all 20 players on the EC roster who were dressed got in the game. Freshman Keith Walder (Eureka, Ill./Eureka) recorded his first basket as a Red Devil on a 3-pointer.

As a team, the Red Devils shot 56.8 percent from the floor, 43.2 percent from 3-point land and 83.3 percent from the free-throw line. They outrebounded the Tigers 56-32, racked up 26 fastbreak points and got 43 points from their bench.

It didn't take long for EC to get going on Saturday. The team jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the first seven minutes and had extended it to 20 with 6:39 left. Its largest lead was 43 points, which came with 10:51 left in the game.

"Every senior day that I've been here, we've started off quick," Thomas said. "The energy has just been at a different level. Some guys that don't normally get to play start, and then when they get buckets, it just feeds everybody else to get buckets."

Thomas posted 23 of his 37 points in the second half and at one point hit six triples in seven tries during a 2 ½-minute span.

The Red Devils knew the importance of the task at hand, but as they pulled away, players on the bench were dying to know what was going on in the other game.

"I was definitely trying to get updates," Thomas said with a laugh. "I was asking everybody, because as a senior, especially since we made it last year, I want that feeling again."

Before the postseason begins on Friday, the Red Devils (11-13, 10-8 in the SLIAC) will wrap up the regular season at home against Emmaus on Monday at 6 p.m.