EUREKA, Ill. – The Eureka College women's basketball team earned the institution's first-ever outright St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team championship on Wednesday, pulling away from Westminster for a 99-75 win at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena. All five starters scored in double figures for the Red Devils, who won their first conference title in a women's sport since 1997 and will host next week's SLIAC Tournament.
Eureka's league title is the College's first in a women's sport since the Red Devils won the 1997 regular-season Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference volleyball crown. The 2016-17 championship is Eureka's sixth in women's basketball history. The Red Devils won five Prairie College Conference championships in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1991 while competing as a dual member of NAIA and NCAA Division III.
As the regular-season league champion, the Red Devils will host the four-team SLIAC Tournament scheduled to begin on Thursday, Feb. 23 at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena. Eureka will play as the top seed in the 8 p.m. semifinal against either Webster or Fontbonne. Second-seeded Greenville will play in the other semifinal against either Webster or Fontbonne. The two semifinal winners will play Saturday, Feb. 25 at 1 p.m. for the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The 99 points scored by the Red Devils were Eureka's most in a SLIAC game since joining the league prior to the 2006-07 season. It also marked the most points scored in 29 previous meetings with Westminster dating back to the 1995-96 season.
A 3-pointer from junior guard Hayley Reneau (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S./Illinois Central) gave EC its first lead, 3-2, just 64 seconds into Wednesday's game. Eureka led the rest of the way. The Red Devils led 22-14 after one period and pushed the advantage to double digits (26-16) on a layup by Ashley Harfst (Saunemin, Ill./Pontiac H.S.) with 7:55 to play before halftime. The EC lead was 42-32 at halftime.
Westminster pulled with seven on two different occasions early in the third quarter, but Eureka wouldn't let the visitors close the gap any further. The Eureka lead reached 20 on Reneau's triple for a 83-63 cushion with 6:15 left in the final quarter.
All five Eureka starters scored at least 10 points for the first time since Jan. 20, 2016 at Greenville. Reneau led EC with 18 points and made four 3-point field goals to improve her season total to 56, tying Kara Smith (1989-90) for fifth place on Eureka's single-season list.
Kerrigan Dura (Edwards, Ill./Brimfield H.S.) scored 13, while Michaela Balducci (Eureka, Ill./Eureka H.S.) and Kennedy Dura (Edwards, Ill./Brimfield H.S.) chipped in with 12 apiece. Lexi Dooley (Sutter, Ill./Warsaw H.S.) added 10 and Luci Weis (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community H.S.) came off the bench for 13 points.
Kerrigan Dura had seven assists Wednesday, bumping her season total to 116, fifth-most in single-season Eureka history.Eureka will play its final regular-season game Saturday at 1 p.m. against Iowa Wesleyan at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.