Eureka Battles Back, Edges MacMurray, 71-69

Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Curl.

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – The Eureka women escaped Bill Wall Gymnasium with a win Wednesday night, but MacMurray made them sweat it out until the end.

After EC junior Ashley Harfst (Saunemin, Ill./Pontiac) hit a pair of free throws to give the Red Devils a three-point edge with 17 seconds left, MacMurray's Alexis Doyle drew a foul on the baseline while trying to recover a floater she put up that didn't hit the iron.

With one second left on the clock, she went to the line and rattled in the first free throw, and then an EC full timeout later, intentionally missed the second to give MacMurray a chance to tip it in and send the game to overtime.

However, the ball ricocheted off a body and went out of bounds, finally ending a 71-69 victory for the Red Devils.

Harfst tallied a team-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting for the Red Devils, knocking down 3-of-6 3-pointers and 5-of-7 free throws. She also led the team with seven rebounds.

Senior Samantha Sarnes (Havana, Ill./Havana) followed with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists, and junior Kennedy Dura (Edwards, Ill./Brimfield) contributed 11 points, four steals and two assists. Ja'Keesha Hawkins (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) chipped in with seven points off the bench.

With the win, EC secured a season sweep over the Highlanders and improved to 13-11 on the season and 7-8 in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. MacMurray fell to 3-21 and 2-13.

It was the Red Devils' 17th straight win over the Highlanders and 46th in 51 games, but they were behind for more of the night than not.

After leading by seven points early on, EC surrendered an 11-0 run and fell behind near the end of the first quarter.

They trailed by as many as 14 in the second and didn't lead again until midway through the third after a Dura free throw. During a 17-2 run, EC extended it to 11, but the Highlanders scored six straight to trim it to five by the end of the frame, setting the stage for a tense final stanza.

In the fourth, the home team scored eight of the first 10 points to take a 60-59 lead with 5:35 left.

A putback by MacMurray's Chassidy Hays with 4:12 remaining made it 64-61, but a Harfst trey on a toss out to the perimeter by Hawkins at the 1:45 mark tied the game. Then, 30 seconds later, a block and a heave down the court by Dura to Hawkins for a transition layup returned the lead to the Red Devils.

A steal and finish on the other end by freshman Josie Morgan (Washington, Ill./Washington) 30 seconds after that gave EC a four-point cushion, but a pair of Hays free throws cut the Highlander's deficit in half.

The Red Devils just couldn't put MacMurray away. Morgan hit a free throw that made it 69-66. Then, after a timeout, MacMurray's Kaylie Stowe scored a layup that made it a one-point game. It stayed that way until Harfst canned a pair of free throws that set up the Highlanders final possession.

MacMurray's Shelby Fink finished with a team-high 23 points after scoring 20 and hitting four 3s in the first half. Doyle added 15 points, and Hays pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds.

The Highlanders outrebounded EC 46-32, but the Red Devils compensated by forcing 22 turnovers, and scoring 26 points off them.