Eureka beats Pontiac 47-34
The Eureka High School girls basketball team stayed red hot, winning its 10th straight Corn Belt Conference game, 47-34 over Pontiac Monday night. Kalla Gold scored 18 points for Eureka (19-6, 10-3).
EUREKA SWEEPS CENTRAL CATHOLIC
It’s not nice to steal other people’s things, but nobody told Michaela Balducci, Kayla Bryant or Shelby Kupferschmid.
Balducci and Kupferschmid stole two passes in the final 1:20, and Bryant ripped the ball out of a player’s hands in the final :25 to clinch Eureka’s thrilling 48-45 win over Bloomington Central Catholic Thursday night.
“We prepared for them, and we knew some of the things they were doing, so I knew that pass was coming. I just stepped in and stole it,” Kupferschmid said about her steal that led to a fast-break layup, which tied the game at 42-42 with 1:20 left.
The steal and layup capped a long, hard-fought comeback for the Hornets, who never led up to that point and trailed by as many as 13 points in the second half.
After Kupferschmid tied the game, BCC’s Caroline Holt made one free throw to give the Saints a 43-42 lead with 1:04 left, setting up the most dramatic moment of the night.
Balducci dribbled to the basket, and was fouled as she put up a short-range shot.
The ball sat on the back of the rim for a couple seconds, and looked like it would come to rest there.
The referee was about to declare a “dead ball,” which would have resulted in a jump ball call.
As the frenetic Eureka crowd cheered, the ball dropped into the net, and the referee signaled that the basket was good.
BCC coach Debbie Coffman questioned if the ball should have been ruled dead, since it actually did rest on the rim for a second. The officials huddled together and concluded that the basket counted.
So, Eureka led 44-43 (Balducci missed the free throw) with 1:00 left.
Balducci stole a pass in the BCC backcourt and sprinted all the way to the other end for a fast break layup to give Eureka a 46-43 lead with :48 left.
Four seconds later, on a night when both coaches had several issues with the referees, Balducci was called for her fifth foul.
Maggie Hayes made both free throws to get BCC within one point (46-45) with :44 left.
Eureka (19-6, 10-3) turned the ball over, but BCC missed a shot on the other end.
Bryant wrestled away the rebound, and she was fouled. She made one free throw to make it 47-45 with :26 left.
BCC (19-5, 9-3) had the ball with a chance to tie the game (or take the lead with a three-pointer).
After a missed shot, a few players fought for the ball in the post area. Bryant ripped the ball away from a Saints’ player, and she was fouled, much to the dismay of Coffman, who thought there should have been a Eureka foul first.
Bryant made one more free throw to make it 48-45 with :07 left.
Holt missed a three-pointer in the final seconds, and the Eureka crowd erupted as the horn sounded and the Hornets were a 48-45 winner.
“I just wanted to get a rebound without committing a foul, and make the free throws at the end,” said Bryant, who had a game-high 16 rebounds. “It was a little rough down there (in the post), but I was glad I could get those two (rebounds in the final 30 seconds).”
Balducci, who made two three-pointers and scored a game-high 21 points, said BCC’s defense made it hard to get good outside shots, so she drove to the basket more often.
“You had to work for any points against them,” she said.
Eureka senior point guard Kalla Gold, the team’s leading scorer this season, had just eight points, but Eureka coach Jerry Prina said her leadership was worth far more than her stats.
“Just having her out there on the floor makes us a much better team,” he said.
With 6:46 left, Gold fell to the floor and writhed in pain after suffering a severe leg cramp.
Prina, anxious to get Gold back in the game, paced the bench and said, “Come on. Give me an update (on Kalla),” to assistant coach Kim Holdenrid, as Gold stretched her leg at the end of the bench.
Gold returned to the game with 5:22 left.
“It hurts,” she said after the game. “But, I’ll get through it. After I went out, my teammates were amazing. This was a great team win.”
Balducci hit a three-pointer, and made another shot off the glass (on an assist from Kelsey Young) right after Gold came out of the game.
The win capped a season sweep for the Hornets, who beat the state-ranked Saints in Bloomington earlier this season.
“I never had any doubt. I knew we would come back,” said Kupferschmid, who scored eight points. “We never quit, and we play together so well. All of us knew we would win.”
The Hornets trailed 33-20 late in the third quarter before a 9-0 run got them right back in the game.
Kupferschmid was given the task of guarding junior forward Danielle Davis. Prina repeatedly told her, “Don’t let her (Davis) even touch the ball.”
Davis scored 11 points, but she was held scoreless in the final 5:00.
“Shelby did a great job,” Prina said. “Davis is a great player, and Shelby was locked in on her in the fourth quarter.”
EUREKA STRIKES GOLD AGAIN
Gold scored 22 points to lead Eureka to a 54-51 win over Prairie Central (17-7, 7-4) Saturday. Balducci scored 13 points and freshman Serena Meiss had eight points for Eureka, which was 18-6 overall and 9-3 in the Corn Belt Conference heading into Monday’s game at Pontiac. A win would give the Hornets at least a share of the Corn Belt Conference title. See woodfordtimes.com for details in that game.