THE OPENING TIP-OFF
After cruising to four wins in its past five games, it's about to get real for the Eureka women's basketball team.
The Red Devils are set to host St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference co-leader Fontbonne on Wednesday inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center at 5:30 p.m.
Then, at the end of the week, they'll take a trip to Louisville, Kentucky, to take on fellow SLIAC contender Spalding at 12 p.m. Saturday.
After completing a pair of season series sweeps last week, the Red Devils are 13-8 on the season and, most importantly, 9-5 in the SLIAC.
That puts them in a four-way tie for third in the league with Greenville, Spalding and Westminster, with Webster and Fontbonne sitting at the top of the table at 12-2.
Only the top four teams make it into the conference tournament. So now, there are four games left to decide which four of these six teams will make it in.
Last week, the Red Devils worked their way past MacMurray on the road in a 96-87 victory on Thursday.
They got off to a blistering start, notching 32 points in the first quarter and amassing a 24-point lead in the second. Then once, MacMurray picked up its play and threatened to close the gap, EC held the Highlanders at bay to secure the sweep.
Olivia Falls dropped 28 points and pulled down 12 rebounds while hitting 14 of 15 free throws.
On Saturday, EC built up a big lead after outscoring Iowa Wesleyan 24-5 in the second quarter en route to a 94-62 victory.
Freshman Whitney Bozarth led the way with a career-high 33-point performance on 11-of-17 shooting from the field and 7-of-11 shooting from 3-point range.
Falls produced a robust stat line of 15 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and six steals.
EC shot 54.3 percent from the floor, marking a new season high.
The Red Devils lead the SLIAC in rebounding (42.4 boards per game), and are second in the SLIAC in scoring (77.5) while shooting 40.1 percent from the field. They're also second in steals per game (13.3).
No one in the SLIAC has accumulated more rebounds than the combo of Harfst and Falls.
The former leads the league with 10.9 boards per game (229 on the season), while the latter is only .5 boards behind at 10.4 (218 on the season).
Falls also leads the league in field-goal percentage (59.8) and Harfst leads the league in free throws made (107 in 123 tries). Dura has distributed a league-high 93 assists.
The last time Eureka took on the Griffins, Fontbonne hadn't established itself as one of the top teams in the SLIAC.
The team was coming off back-to-back SLIAC losses to Webster (83-72) and Spalding (80-49) and had lost three straight at the time. But since then, the Griffins have pieced together a nine-game winning streak.
Rylee Stafford led the way with 24 points as the Griffins rallied in the fourth quarter to a 73-62 victory over the Red Devils, and the team hasn't lost since.
Most recently, the Griffins got two back against the teams that handed them their two league losses.
On Thursday, Stafford posted 19 points and Kourtney White followed with 15 as the team held Webster to 58 points on 34.9 percent shooting in a 67-58 win.
Then, on Saturday, the Griffins managed to put Spalding away at the free-throw line to seal a close one and win 65-55.
Fontbonne, by and large, hasn't put up overpowering numbers this season, but it is shooting 43.6 percent from the field – good for second in the league — while averaging 67.7 points per game.
The team has also launched the most 3s per game in the league (26 per game) and is third in makes from distance (8.4 per game).
Stafford leads the league in made 3s with 60 in 171 tries, and is fourth in the league in scoring with 15.8 points per game. Raven Venegas adds 11.1 points per game and lead the team with 5.9 boards per game.
Heading into Tuesday's game at Principia, Spalding holds a 9-5 record in the conference and is 11-10 overall.
The Golden Eagles are one of the teams in the middle of the pack, fighting for a SLIAC Tournament spot.
They're also looking to get revenge on the Red Devils after the maroon and gold edged Spalding 75-74 in one of the team's highlights of the season.
Spalding is coming off a 65-55 loss to Fontbonne that snapped a three-game winning streak.
In the loss, Maleah Hirn notched 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including a trio of triples. Allison Just and Hunter Wright added 13 and 10 points, respectively, while the team shot 40 percent from the field.
Wright is the team's leading scorer with 14.7 points per game while shooting a 51.7 percent from the field. The 6-foot senior also leads the team in rebounds with 8.6 per game.
FALLS NOTCHES FOURTH PLAYER OF THE WEEK HONOR
Once again, Olivia Falls is the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week.
It's the fourth time the 5-foot-8 sophomore from Bloomington has received the honor this season.
This week, Falls averaged 21.5 points and 12 rebounds per game while shooting 65 percent from the floor and going 17-for-19 from the free-throw line in a pair of wins over MacMurray and Iowa Wesleyan. She also averaged 5.5 steals and 5 assists per game.
On Thursday, Falls posted 28 points on 7-of-8 shooting, pulled down 12 rebounds, made 14-of-15 free throws, recorded five steals and had three assists as the Red Devils held off MacMurray on the road, 96-87.
Two days later, she contributed 15 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists and six steals in a 94-62 victory over Iowa Wesleyan.
With four games to play in the regular season, Falls is third in the SLIAC in scoring with 15.9 points per game while shooting a league-best 59.8 percent from the field.
She has made the second most free throws behind teammate Ashley Halfst with 101 in 132 tries, and is third in rebounds per game with 10.4 — just .5 off Harfst's league-high 10.9.