GREENVILLE, Ill. – For the first time since last November, the Eureka men's basketball team fell victim to The System on Wednesday night.
The Red Devils had their moments, but Greenville wrested control away in the second half and earned a 146-143 victory in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play.
Despite putting up some career numbers and setting a program record for points in a single half in the NCAA Division III era since 1996, it wasn't the maroon and gold's night.
Dakota Bennington (Peoria, Ill./Peoria Christian) dropped season-high 36 points on 13-of-22 shooting and gathered a career-high 18 rebounds in the loss for the Red Devils. Chris Daniels (Peoria, Ill./Peoria) eclipsed his previous career high of 15 points with 24 in the first half and finished with 31 on 13-of-19 shooting. He also added eight rebounds.
Austin Juergens (Pekin, Ill./Pekin) contributed 25 points on 9-of-18 shooting and had eight boards. Jordan Dehm (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) posted a double-double, tallying 19 points and finishing a board shy of his career high with 18 rebounds.
Ian Milsteadt (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria) chipped in with 14 points and eight boards off the bench.
Eureka led the whole first half and held a game-high 11-point lead after a layup finish by Daniels off a feed by J'Len Crawford (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) with 10:56 until halftime.
The Panthers rallied back and tied the game with 4:37 before half, but the Red Devils managed to go into the break leading 81-76. The Red Devils shot a robust 70.8 percent in the first 20 minutes.
In the second half, however, the Eureka's field-goal percentage dropped to 58.9 and turnover total piled up.
Greenville took its first lead on a triple by Grady Sontiago that made it 92-91 with 15:48 left to play. The two teams ended up trading the lead 15 times before it was all done.
EC held a 137-136 lead with 2:32 left, but few things went as planned down the stretch.
After an emphatic block by Bennington, Hosea got denied on the other end, and Greenville transitioned for a go-ahead 3-pointer by Riley Simmons. He made it, got fouled by Daniels and completed a four-point play at the line to make it 140-137, Panthers.
Juergens and Greenville's Eric Williams traded layups to keep it a three-point game, but Jalen Hosea (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) was called for a travel while trying to advance the ball and withstand Greenville's press.
The Panthers failed to capitalize immediately, but Daniels was called for an offensive foul on the next EC possession with 55 seconds remaining.
After Eureka was forced to foul following a quick Bennington bucket, Sontiago put away both free throws to extend the lead to three with 31 seconds remaining.
An athletic Hosea tip-in on a Bennington missed 3 with 21 seconds kept EC in it.
Sontiagot then made it a two-point game after splitting a pair of free throws with 16 ticks remaining. Milsteadt pulled down the rebound on the miss and tried to set up what could have been the game-winning or -tying play, but he ended up passing it out of bounds.
After going to the line, Simmons made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 146-143 with nine seconds left, giving EC one final chance. Bennnington was able to throw up a 3, but Greenville didn't give him a very clean look, securing the win for the Panthers.
Williams tallied a team-high 29 points for the Panther. Johnson and Sontiago added 25 and 22, respectively. The home team finished with 17 3-pointers on the night.
Greenville was able to successfully follow three of five tenants of The System: Rack up 100 shots (105), launch 50 3-pointers (53) and force 32 turnovers (35).
The Red Devils prevented the Panthers from taking 25 more shots than they did, and only allowed them to get 13.2 percent of the offensive rebounds (to their preferred 35 percent), but it wasn't enough this time around.
The Red Devils are now 5-5 against Greenville since the Panthers started running The System. They'll host the Panthers in the rematch on Feb. 22.
With the loss, Eureka moved to 10-6 on the season and 5-4 in the SLIAC – good for a three-way tie for fourth in the conference with Westminster and Blackburn.
The Red Devils will take on Blackburn for the second time this season on Saturday inside Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center at 3 p.m.