Eureka College senior forward Dustin Fritsch (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) compiled team-highs of 22 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, leading the Red Devils to a 72-64 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over defending league champion Webster, Saturday afternoon at the Reagan Center. The decision marked Eureka's first SLIAC victory of the 2012-13 season.
The Red Devils (5-6, 1-2 SLIAC) used a fast start, keeping the Gorloks off the board for nearly four minutes while building an 8-0 lead. Eureka's lead ultimately swelled to as many as 11 points on two different occasions in the first half, as a layup from senior center D.T. Thornton (Normal/Normal West H.S./Carl Sandburg) pushed EC to a 24-13 cushion.
Webster (4-7, 2-1 SLIAC) slowly battled back and took its first lead of the afternoon, 29-28, on an interior basket from Cody Bradfisch with 56 seconds left before halftime. The hosts answered when senior center Mark Lessen (Delavan/Delavan H.S.) scored inside on the ensuing possession, and the Red Devils carried the 30-29 edge into intermission.
The two squads traded the lead three times early in the second half before Eureka broke the only tie of the afternoon and took the lead for good, 40-38, on Lessen's dunk with 16:45 to play. The slam came as part of an 11-2 run that ended with another basket from Lessen for a 46-40 lead with 14:52 remaining. The Red Devils pushed their lead back to double-digits when senior guard Jordan Fehr (Roanoke/Roanoke-Benson H.S.) hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions for a 65-55 lead with 7:14 left.
The visitors were able to cut their deficit back to five, 67-62, on Ahmad Smith's triple with 5:12 remaining, but the Eureka defense limited the Gorloks to just one more field goal the rest of the way. The Red Devils went 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the final four minutes to put the contest away.
Fritsch's effort resulted in his team-best fifth double-double of the season. His six assists matched a career-high. Lessen also reached double-figures with 16 points and blocked three shots, while senior guard Niko Rivera (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) poured in a season-high 13 points.
Eureka shot 53 percent (29-for-55) for the game, including a 16-for-28 performance in the second half. The Red Devils outrebounded Webster, 37-32, the seventh time this season EC has held the advantage on the glass. The Red Devils distributed a season-high 25 assists as a team.
Smith came off the bench to score a game-high 27 points for the Gorloks. Danny Zehner added 15, followed by Jarrod Huskey with 10. The Gorloks went just 2-for-9 from the free throw line for the afternoon.
The Red Devils continued league play Tuesday night at Fontbonne in St. Louis, Mo.