FULTON, Mo. -- The Eureka College women's basketball team will play its final road game of the 2016-17 regular season on Monday, traveling to Fulton, Mo. for a 3 p.m. St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matchup with Westminster.
Eureka owns a 14-6 overall record and a 10-1 SLIAC mark. The first-place Red Devils saw their 10-game league win streak come to an end on Saturday in a 67-62 setback at Fontbonne in St. Louis. EC still needs one more victory -- or one more Webster defeat -- to clinch a bid to its sixth straight SLIAC Tournament.
EC's team scoring average ranks second among SLIAC teams, while its field goal percentage of .408 ranks third and its 3-point field goal percentage of .318 ranks fourth. The Red Devils distribute an average of 18.3 assists per game, second in the league and fourth nationally, according to the latest national update from the NCAA.
The Red Devils' 14-6 record through 20 games is their best since the 2011-12 squad raced to a 17-3 record. Along with the 2004-05 Red Devils that started 16-4 through 20 contests, EC has started 14-6 or better just three times since beginning conference-affiliated play at the NCAA Division III level prior to the 1996-97 season. The previous two teams to accomplish the feat advanced to their conference tournament championship games.
Eureka was picked to finish sixth in the SLIAC, according to a coaches' poll released before the start of the season.
RED DEVILS SUFFER FIRST LEAGUE LOSS AT FONTBONNE
Kennedy Dura scored a career-high 17 points, including a game-tying 3-pointer with 2:13 left, but Fontbonne scored seven of the game's final nine points to earn a 67-62 SLIAC win over the Red Devils, Saturday afternoon at Mabee Gymnasium in St. Louis, Mo. The decision snapped Eureka's 10-game conference win streak.
Eureka had one final chance to tie with possession trailing 64-62, but a turnover thwarted the opportunity before the Red Devils could attempt a game-tying or go-ahead field goal attempt. The Griffins made three of their final four free throw attempts to seal their victory.
Dura went 7-for-10 from the field. Luci Weis netted 11 off the bench and made two 3-point field goals to move in front of Kara Smith (1987-90) for third place on Eureka's all-time list with 136.
Michaela Balducci logged a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds, as did Lexi Dooley with 10 points and 12 boards. It marked the first time two Red Devils had a double-double in the same game since the same duo accomplished the feat at Blackburn on Feb. 17, 2016.
Westminster is 8-12 through its first 20 games and an even 6-6 in the SLIAC. WC put an end to three-game skid on Saturday with a 82-44 rout of MacMurray in Fulton. The Blue Jays are currently tied with Spalding for the fourth and final SLIAC Tournament spot, putting WC's streak of eight consecutive league tournament appearances in jeopardy.
Andrea Zalis, a 5-9 senior from Rolla, Mo., leads the SLIAC with averages of 18.1 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. The two-time All-SLIAC pick is on pace to become the ninth player in conference history to lead the league in scoring and rebounding.
The Blue Jays also receive significant offensive contributions from sophomore Mirrakohl Johnson, who pours in 10.4 points per contest. Johnson also collects 7.7 rebounds per game.
Westminster is the SLIAC's top free-throw shooting team, making its foul shots at a 77 percent clip. The Blue Jays also control the glass, outrebounding their opponents by 5.1 boards per game, the second-highest margin in the league.
After failing to win a regular season or tournament championship in their first 20 seasons as a charter member of the SLIAC, the Blue Jays have recently become one of the premier women's basketball programs in the league. Westminster has won the outright regular-season crown in four of the last six seasons, including three in a row from 2011 through 2013 as well as last season's title. WC won back-to-back SLIAC Tournament championships in 2012 and 2013.
ABOUT THE HEAD COACHES
Steve Thompson is in his third season as head coach of the Red Devils.
Since taking the reins of the program in 2014, Thompson has built on the Red Devils' sustained success and guided EC to the SLIAC Tournament in each of his first two seasons, including a title game appearance in 2015.
In addition to his role with the Eureka women's basketball program, Thompson has served EC as Director of Athletics since Jan. 2, 2014. Thompson has more than a decade of administrative experience in collegiate athletics, including five years at NCAA Division III Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio and two years at NCAA Division I Kent State.
Four-time SLIAC Coach of the Year Tracey Braden is in her 10th season at Westminster. The Central Missouri State graduate, who owns a 154-97 record in Fulton, has guided the Blue Jays to four SLIAC regular-season championships and to the 2012 and 2013 SLIAC Tournament crowns.
Braden began her collegiate playing career at Central Methodist College in 1984. She transferred to Central Missouri State and was a member of three teams that captured conference championships and qualified for three NCAA Division II national tournaments.
Like her Monday counterpart Steve Thompson, Braden also serves as her institution's Director of Athletics.
SERIES VERSUS WESTMINSTER
Westminster leads the all-time series with Eureka, 22-5, including a 13-1 advantage inside Westminster Gym in Fulton. Eureka's lone win over the Blue Jays in Fulton was an 83-80 triumph on Dec. 17, 2013, a game in which Caty Eeten poured in 40 points to stop a 10-game skid versus WC in Fulton dating back to the 1999-00 season.
The Red Devils and Blue Jays have met in the SLIAC Tournament in each of the last two seasons and in three of the last five seasons.
WC defeated the Red Devils in the 2012 SLIAC Tournament title game, 60-54. Eureka evened the postseason series in the 2015 semifinal, defeating the Blue Jays 71-58 in Louisville, Ky., but Westminster returned the favor in last season's tournament semifinal with a 71-64 win in Fulton.
LAST TIME VERSUS WESTMINSTER
Michaela Balducci scored 18 points and Samantha Sarnes added 11, but top-seeded Westminster closed out strong over the final quarter of play to beat the fourth-seeded Red Devils, 71-64, in a 2016 SLIAC Tournament semifinal on Feb. 26, 2016 in Fulton, Mo.
The Blue Jays jumped out to an early 9-2 edge, thanks to a pair of early baskets from forward Krista Armontrout. Eureka fought back in the second period, eventually evening the score at 23-23 after a pair of made free throws from Sarnes. Westminster responded with an 8-0 burst and closed out the half on a 14-4 run to take a 37-27 lead into intermission.
The Red Devils trimmed Westminster's lead throughout the third quarter, outscoring the hosts 21-12 over the frame and headed into the final quarter trailing by one, 49-48. Sarnes scored 8 of her 11 points in the quarter, shooting a perfect 3-for-3 from the field.
Kerrigan Dura gave the Red Devils their first lead of the night, 52-51, after connecting on 3-pointer with 7:10 remaining. WC soon regained the lead and held off Eureka's final push to pull away with a 71-64 final.
Dura finished the night with 10 points. Balducci grabbed nine rebounds and Lexi Dooley provided six points and six rebounds.
Armontrout led the Blue Jays' offensive charge with a game-high 26 points. Westminster outrebounded the Red Devils 41-35 and outscored Eureka 16-6 in the paint. Andrea Zalis and Mackenzie Haddox added 15 and 10 points for the Blue Jays, respectively.
FOLLOW THE ACTION ONLINE
Links to a live video stream and live statistics be available at EurekaRedDevils.com, wcbluejays.com and sliac.org
The Eureka College media relations staff will provide updates throughout the game via Twitter at @EurekaGameDay.