Eureka boys basketball starts season with win

Staff Writer
Woodford Times

Eureka College senior center Mark Lessen (Delavan/Delavan H.S.) led all scorers with 25 points and went 11-for-11 from the free throw line, leading the Red Devils to a season-opening 89-65 victory over Lincoln Christian, Thursday night at the Laughlin Center in Lincoln. The 24-point margin of victory marked Eureka's largest margin of victory over the Red Lions in Lincoln since 1976, and the biggest win for EC in a season opener since 1978.

Eureka exploded out of the gate, getting a 3-pointer from senior guard Niko Rivera (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) on the first possession of the game on its way to building a 22-4 lead. Lessen scored 10 of his points during the run that lasted less than seven minutes.

The hosts were unable to pull back within single-digits during the first half, and a lay-in from senior guard Chuck Misuraca (Winnebago/Winnebago H.S./Missouri Valley) gave EC a 47-24 lead with 1:24 remaining, its largest advantage of the first half. The Red Devils carried a 47-27 lead into intermission. Eureka converted 10 LCU turnovers into 16 points and also received 14 points from its bench in the first 20 minutes.

The Red Devils maintained a comfortable lead for a large portion of the second half. After another interior bucket from Misuraca with 17:47 left gave Eureka its largest lead of the night, 55-31, LCU slowly began to chip away at the deficit.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Brady Cremeens pulled the hosts within nine, 70-61, with 6:25 left, but the Red Devils answered with a 3-point play from Lessen and a triple from the wing from senior forward Dustin Fritsch (Sterling./Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley), putting the game away with less than five minutes remaining. A late bucket from Eureka senior reserve Jordan Fehr (Roanoke/Roanoke-Benson H.S.) capped a 19-4 burst to end the game and allowed Eureka to match its largest lead of the night, 89-65, which ultimately held up as the final score.

Lessen was one of three Red Devils to score in double-figures Thursday. Fritsch added 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds to share game-high honors with Rivera and Misuraca. Rivera also poured in 10 points, while Misuraca's six assists were a career-high. Eureka, which never trailed Thursday night, held a 43-33 cushion on the glass and outscored the hosts in the paint, 40-26. The Red Devils were sharp from the free throw line, making 20 of 25 attempts.

Cremeens led LCU with 18 points, while Blake Saathoff added 15 points. The Red Lions committed 17 turnovers went just 10-for-18 from the free throw line.

Eureka's 24-point win marked its biggest victory over the Red Lions in Lincoln since a 68-38 triumph on Dec. 7, 1976. Additionally, Thursday's decision was the Red Devils' largest margin of victory in a season-opening contest since a 92-57 rout of Grand Rapids Baptist as part of a tournament hosted by Judson on Nov. 17, 1978.