EUREKA — The Eureka men chopped a 24-point lead down to three with less than two minutes to go against Blackburn.
But the Red Devils couldn't find a winning combination of stops, buckets and luck to close the gap.
As a result, the Beavers came away from Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena with an 83-74 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference victory over EC Thursday night — and a season series split with the Red Devils.
Junior Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian) finished with a game-high 25 points for the Red Devils in a losing effort.
Senior Hank Thomas (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods), junior Jordan Dehm (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) and junior Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) also all reached double figures for the Red Devils, contributing 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively. Dehm pulled down a team-high eight rebounds, and senior Alex Wiegand (Washington, Ill/Washington) gathered six to go with nine points.
The Red Devils trailed Blackburn by 21 points at the half, but they trimmed it down to 10 with eight minutes left after a Dehm free throw. Less than two minutes, a jumper by Blackburn's Raushaun Amos, and a Bennington dunk later, Bennington knocked down a jumper that made it 69-61 with 6:38 remaining.
A Wiegand jumper with 6:11 left made it seven points for the first time since early in the first half, and a jumper by Thomas with 4:04 left did it again.
However, Eureka didn't come any closer until Thomas canned a triple at the 2:20 mark and then made it 77-74 with a pair of free throws with 1:45 left.
On the next possession, Blackburn's Karson Hayes got to the line, put away both foul shots and made it a five-point game at 79-74.
The Beavers kept the maroon and gold off the board the rest of the way.
Blackburn came out of the gate sizzling. The visitors shot 52.6 percent from the field in the first half and 50 percent from behind the line.
EC, meanwhile, improved from an ice-cold 26.7 percent in the first half to a robust 51.9 in the second. The Red Devils fell to 6-12 on the season and 5-7 in the SLIAC, while Blackburn improved to 10-10 and 7-6 in the conference.
Amos hit four of Blackburn's 10 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 20 points on 8-of-12 shooting. Jamaya Wyatt posted 18 points off the bench, and Chanz Aldridge chipped in with 15.