Eureka mens basketball team battles on Senior Night

Staff Writer
Woodford Times
Dustin Fritsch makes a pass for the Eureka College men’s basketball team.

The Eureka College men's basketball team celebrated its annual Senior Night Feb. 13, as the Red Devils' eight-man senior class combined to score all 74 of Eureka's points in a 74-66 non-conference victory over Lincoln Christian at the Reagan Center. Senior forward Dustin Fritsch (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) led the Red Devils with 16 points.

Eureka (15-8) broke the third tie of the night on a layup from Rian Nailor (Rock Falls/Rock Falls H.S./Sauk Valley) for a 12-10 lead at the 11:47 mark of the first half. Eureka never looked back, earning a double-digit lead as early as the 3:13 mark of the opening half when senior center Mark Lessen (Delavan/Delavan H.S.) scored inside for a 29-18 lead. The lead eventually swelled to 13 points, but the Red Lions scored five straight in the final 32 seconds of the half to trail at intermission, 34-26.

LCU (10-14) pulled within seven, 43-36, on Raymond Shegogg's triple with 15:09 left, but Eureka responded by outscoring the visitors 27-15 over the next 11 minutes. A layup from fifth-year guard Jordan Kindred (Chrisman/Chrisman H.S.) with 4:40 to go capped the run and gave the hosts their largest lead of the night, 70-51.

The Red Lions refused to go away, slashing their deficit to as little as six (70-64) on Anthony Rush's transition layup with 1:05 to play, but the Red Devils went on to score four points from the foul line in the final 61 seconds to hold off LCU's late push.

Lessen scored 10 points and collected a game-high 12 rebounds for the game's only double-double. He also had four blocked shots. Nailor came off the bench for 14 points and three assists, while Kindred tacked on 11 points. Senior guards Niko Rivera (Sterling/Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) and Chuck Misuraca (Winnebago/Winnebago H.S./Missouri Valley) shared team-high honors with five assists apiece.

Brady Cremeens led the Red Lions with 22 points on 6-for-22 shooting. Anthony Rush compiled a game-high seven assists.

Feb. 13's game marked the final home games for Fritsch, Nailor, Lessen, Kindred, Rivera, Misuraca, Jordan Fehr (Roanoke/Roanoke-Benson H.S.) and D.T. Thornton (Normal/Normal West H.S./Carl Sandburg). The victory was Eureka's ninth in a row at the Reagan Center, the Red Devils' longest home win streak since the 1994-95 season.

Eureka also closed the home portion of its schedule with 11 wins, the most victories in a season at the Reagan Center since the Red Devils won 12 home games during their 1993-94 national championship season.

Five Eureka College men's basketball players scored in double-figures Saturday at Principia, including a game-high 20 points from Lessen as the Red Devils led from wire-to-wire in an 86-54 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over the Panthers at Hay Field House in Elsah.

Eureka (16-8, 11-4 SLIAC) scored the first seven points of the contest and never looked back Saturday. The hosts were able to cut their deficit to six points, 21-15, as late as the 9:59 mark of the first half, but Eureka closed the opening period on a 20-10 surge to lead 41-25 at intermission. The Red Devils shot 55 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes.

The second half brought more of the same for the visitors. Eureka led by as many as 35 points in the final six minutes of the contest.

Lessen was 9-for-12 from the field and snagged 13 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the season. Nailor tacked on 13 points, followed by junior guard Connor Lincoln (Polo/Polo H.S./Sauk Valley) with 12. Kindred and senior Thornton (Normal/Normal West H.S./Carl Sandburg) put up 10 points apiece.

Eureka distributed 26 assists as a team and committed only 10 turnovers. The Red Devils shot 55.4 percent (36-for-65) from the field Saturday, their most accurate shooting performance since producing an identical 36-for-65 performance against Principia at the Reagan Center on Jan. 17. Sixth-year head coach Chip Wilde used all of his available players.

Damon Wilgus scored 17 points in the loss for Principia (0-23, 0-14 SLIAC). Stanley Beal logged seven rebounds. The Panthers have dropped 51 consecutive games dating back to February 2011.

Saturday's win improved Eureka to 11-4 in SLIAC action and lifted the Red Devils into a second-place tie in the league standings with Westminster. The Red Devils have won 13 of their last 15 contests overall, the program's best 15-game stretch since winning 14 of its final 15 games en route to the 1993-94 NAIA Division II national title.