As Regular Season Winds Down, Red Devils Control Own Destiny

As Regular Season Winds Down, Red Devils Control Own Destiny

EUREKA — The St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament is less than 10 days away.

The Eureka men's basketball team's play this week will decide if last year's tourney champs will be in attendance this time around.

On Wednesday, the Red Devils will face league leader Webster in a crucial road matchup at 7:30 p.m.

Then, three days after, they'll host familiar foe Greenville at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center at 3 p.m. Get your popcorn ready for what could be an explosive regular season finale.

PDF VERSION OF 2/19/2020 NOTEBOOK

ABOUT EUREKA

Okay, ready to unravel this mess?

Heading into the final stretch of the 2019-20 regular season, the Red Devils are locked in a three-way tie with Fontbonne and Blackburn for the final spot.

However, because EC split with both Fontbonne and Blackburn during the season, and are the only team of the three to take one from Webster, the Red Devils own the tiebreaker over those teams.

The only way the Red Devils can clinch a playoff spot on Thursday is if the Red Devils beat Webster, Greenville loses to Blackburn and Fontbonne loses to Iowa Wesleyan.

Any other result leaves the door open for all sorts of wonky scenarios. 

The simplest way for the Red Devils to get in is to win both games. EC coach Chip Wilde doesn't need any reminders of what can happen when tiebreakers are involved. Four years ago, the Red Devils found themselves on the outside looking in of a four-way tie for third with a 10-8 record.

The maroon and gold have won three straight and five of their last six.

On Saturday, the Red Devils led by as many as 37 points en route to an 82-61 victory at Spalding.

Dakota Bennington, the SLIAC Player of the Week, led a balanced EC scoring effort with 20 points. Kyle Henderson added a season-high 10 off the bench, while five others chipped in with between six and nine.

Bennington leads the SLIAC in scoring with 24.7 points per game. He has also knocked the down the most free throws (101 in 128 tries), is fourth in steals (43) and fifth in blocks (26).

Jaedon Banks leads the league in blocks with 43. Austin Juergens is fourth in free-throw percentage (84.7) and Jordan Dehm is fifth in rebounds with 8.1 per game.

Dehm averages 16.5 points per game, with Juergens adding 14.9 and Ian Milsteadt contributing 10.5.

The Red Devils are currently averaging 90.4 points per game (second in the league) while shooting 47.4 percent (fourth in the league). They're leading the SLIAC in rebounds (45) and free-throw percentage (75.8), and are also second in blocks (5.3).

ABOUT WEBSTER

The Webster Gorloks are guaranteed at least a share of the SLIAC title for the second straight year. They made sure of that with an 80-61 win at Blackburn last week.

The visitors used a 43-point second-half to get the full upperhand on the Beavers after only being up by single-digits at halftime.

These guys can lock up an outright title with a win over EC on Wednesday or Iowa Weslelyan on Saturday. Webster has now won eight straight since falling at Eureka, 85-79, on Jan. 18.

On Saturday, Josh Johnson notched a team-high 18 points on 7-for-14 shooting and 3-of-6 shooting from 3. Erinque Tankins and Wynne Brown Jr. both had 15 and Rodson Etienne followed with 13.

Johnson (18.5) and Etienne (16.2) are the team's top scorers, followed by Tankins (14.3) and Brown (10.4). Tankins gathers a team-high 9.3 boards per game.

Known for their defense, the Gorloks hold opponents to a league-low 75.6 points per game on 43.4 percent shooting and 34 percent shooting from distance.

They average 81.3 points per game on 48.8 percent shooting and are last in the league in both 3-pointers made (5.4 per game) and taken (15.3). They're second only to the Red Devils in rebound margin per game (2.7).

Webster leads the all-time series 18-13, but EC has won three in a row over the Gorloks, including last season's SLIAC Tournament title game.

ABOUT GREENVILLE

What else is there left to say about Greenville?

At this point, you know what you're going to get when the Panthers come to town: A high-energy, high-scoring circus of a basketball game that shatters records and forces your team to dig deep to keep its poise.

Two of the past three times that EC and Greenville tangled, the Red Devils came out on top.

But last time, the Panthers accomplished three of the five tenants of The System: Rack up 100 shots (105), launch 50 3-pointers (53) and force 32 turnovers (35).

It was the last factor that really did a number on EC's chances.

The Red Devils must withstand Greenville's full-court pressure and take better care of the ball on Saturday to get the edge.

Greenville leads NCAA Division III in scoring offense (132.4 points per game), assists per game (26.1), steals per game (20.2), forced turnovers (31.48) and made 3-pointers (21.9).

Senior Sontiago Grady is the team's leading scorer. He's currently putting up 21.3 points per game in less than 20 minutes per game.

Eric Williams (14.9) and Marvin Bateman (14.8) are just below 15 points per game, while Henry Johnson (13.5), Riley Simmons (13.3) and Kameron Vinsel (10.4) are all in double figures.

Eureka is 5-5 against Greenville since the Panthers adopted The System, but GU leads the all-time series 53-26 dating back to 1974.