EUREKA — After trailing by 20 points in the first half, the Eureka women's basketball team nearly completed a remarkable comeback against Greenville on opening night at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena Wednesday.
The Red Devils fell a bucket short in overtime and came within an eyelash of winning it in regulation, but Greenville ultimately held on and won, 70-68.
"It's a tough one to lose," first-year EC women's coach Jaylynn Stewart said, "but I'm incredibly proud of the fight and the heart that they showed. We put ourselves in a position to win; it just didn't go our way."
Eureka made a series of clutch plays down the stretch to get there.
Down by two points with less than 3 ½ minutes left in the game, junior Alaina Vance (Camp Point, Ill./Central) snatched an inside pass in the lane and went coast-to-coast for the layup to tie the game for the first time.
Greenville answered a minute later to regain the lead, but sophomore Abby Stotler (Wyoming, Ill./Stark County) got a hand on Madelyn Stephen's layup with less than minute on the clock. Whitney Bozarth (Normal, Ill./Normal West) quickly retrieved the rebound and found Olivia Falls (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) for the game-tying fastbreak layup and got fouled.
The free throw was no good. However, on the other end of the floor, Emily Reinneck's 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down fell into Marissa Murphy's (Canton, Ill./Canton) hands. She heaved it down court to Falls, who handed it off to Vance for an uncontested go-ahead layup.
That made it 62-60 with 17 seconds remaining.
That lead nearly held until the clocked ticked down to nothing. However, after a pair of missed free throws by Murphy, Greenville found the ball and called timeout with less than two seconds remaining. The clock said .4 seconds, but after conferring over a Red Devils timeout, the officials put 1.8 seconds left. That was enough time for Greenville to run an out of bounds play that resulted in a lay-in by Payten Morris to send the game to overtime.
Fatigued and in foul trouble, both teams traded buckets until Greenville had a 70-68 lead with single digit seconds left on the clock.
EC had a couple chances to respond, but a Murphy 3-pointer and a Shakaya Rogers (Hanover, Mich./Concord) drive bounced off the rim, sealing a hard-fought win for the visitors.
Falls, who averaged a double-double of 15.4 points and 10.5 rebounds in 2019-20, posted an opening-night double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Rogers finished with a team-high 15 points for the Red Devils, and Murphy added 13 points off the bench on 5-of-8 shooting. Bozarth dished a team-high five assists, while Rogers and Vance each had three.
Greenville's Amanda Brooks scored a game-high 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Reinneck followed with 16 on 5-of-9 shooting and Morris chipped in with 10 off the bench.
The Red Devils successfully clawed their way back into the game after getting off to an icy start. EC fell into an 8-0 hole in a first quarter in which the team shot 30 percent.
The maroon and gold improved to 37.5 percent in the second quarter and made 3-of-7 3-point attempts. However, Greenville shot 60 percent in the second frame and led by as many as 20 before going into halftime up 13.
Eureka matched Greenville point for point in the third quarter, then put it all together with a 24-point fourth quarter that closed the gap. The Red Devils only turned the ball over three times in the fourth.
"We'll learn a lot from this one," Stewart said.