Red Devils Storm Past Westminster Just in Time, 79-77

Red Devils Storm Past Westminster Just in Time, 79-77

FULTON, Mo. – With the odds stacked heavily against them and time running out, the Eureka men's basketball team pieced together a stunning 10-0 run over the last 70 seconds to surge past Westminster for a 79-77 road victory on Saturday.

With 1:20 remaining in the game, Westminster's Emil Spriggs drove the lane and laid it off the glass to give the Blue Jays an eight-point lead. The score was 77-69, and it was clear there wouldn't be that many possessions left in the game.

The Red Devils entered the day looking to complete a season series sweep over the Blue Jays and improve to 5-2 in St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. But, if the Red Devils didn't make something happen quickly, they would soon be leaving Historic Gymnasium with a series split and their third straight road loss against a SLIAC foe.

The door was closing, but it wasn't shut yet.

"Our guys, they haven't given up the whole year," 15th-year EC head coach Chip Wilde said. "They've stuck with everything. When they got a break, they took advantage of it. They got a break, they took advantage of it.

"Sometimes you're good, sometimes you're bad and sometimes you're lucky. I think it was a combination of everything."

On the next possession, Eureka's Austyn Ellison (Hudson, Ill./Bloomington Central Catholic) drew a foul while making a move to the basket. Then, the junior guard came off a screen set by freshman Sam DeJesus (Delavan, Ill./Delavan), received the inbounds pass from senior Jalen Hosea (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) and swished a deep fadeaway jumper on the baseline.

That made it 77-71 with 1:10 to go. By the time the Red Devils stopped the clock with a foul, there were 55 seconds left. The Blue Jays' Jaxon Althaus missed the one-and-one and Ellison gathered the board.

Eureka junior Charlie McKinty (Elmwood, Ill./Elmwood/Illinois College) scored off a drive to make it a four-point game and got fouled along the way. He promptly put away the free throw. Suddenly, the Red Devils were within three points with 38.9 seconds remaining.

The Red Devils fouled Westminster's Landon Harrison and gave the Blue Jays a chance for separation at the line. But, once again, the foul shot didn't go.

Senior J'Len Crawford (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) secured the board, giving Eureka plenty of time to capitalize. Ellison stepped up again, taking his man off the dribble for a layup that made it a one-point game with 19.9 seconds left.

For the third straight Westminster possession, Eureka fouled. For the third straight time, a Blue Jay missed at the line. Crawford came down with it, and then Ellison called timeout once the maroon and gold were over the line.

There were 11.7 seconds left on the clock.

"They would come back to the huddle and they were positive," Wilde said. "They were, like, 'Let's do this'. And they kept getting closer and more confident. To their credit, they just hung with it."

"This team, I haven't really ever felt like they should lose, so I just keep thinking that we're going to win."

When play resumed, Hosea received the inbound, saw an opening and headed for the basket. It looked like he had his man beat, but Westminster's Makygh Galbreath leapt and swatted it off the backboard.

With the whole gym going crazy and time ticking away, the ball fell into the waiting hands of Eureka center Logan Dorethy (Hamilton, Ill./West Hancock/Hannibal LaGrange). He tried to go up with it, but Althaus got his hands on it. McKinty jumped, retrieved it and aimed in one motion. The ball went off the right side of the backboard.

Dorethy followed it and tipped it in off the glass and through contact to put the Red Devils ahead with 2.1 seconds to go.

The generally reserved Dorethy exploded in celebration, jumping up and down, flexing and bumping chests with his ecstatic teammates. A timeout later, he sunk the free throw to give the Red Devils a 79-77 lead with 2.1 seconds left.

Galbreath ran the baseline and fired a baseball pass into the lane and hit the outstretched right hand of Althaus but Ellison swooped in and swiped it away before he could secure it, dribbling out the clock and chucking it in the air at the sound of the buzzer.

Five Red Devils finished in double figures. McKinty notched the second double-double of his career, posting 16 points and 12 rebounds. Dorethy shot 7-for-10 from the field and was one rebound short of a double-double. Crawford contributed 13 points, six rebounds and a team-high five assists, while Ellison and Hosea added 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Senior guard Jordan Brooks (St. Joseph. Ill./St. Joseph-Ogden/Lincoln Land) added seven off the bench in 12 minutes, and sophomore big man Lane Thompson (Dwight, Ill./Dwight) had six points in 13. Also contributing were DeJesus, Blake Castonguay (Watseka, Ill./Watseka/Illinois College) and Zach Briggs (Decatur, Ill./Decatur MacArthur/Lincoln Land).

"(We had) big minutes and a lot of different combinations (of players), and guys were ready," Wilde said. "We felt like we could put any of the 13 guys on the floor and they were going to be ready. It was a just a good team win."

The thrilling finish gave the Red Devils two comeback victories over the Blue Jays this month. On Jan. 5, EC came back from down 18 points in the first half and seized a gritty 79-76 SLIAC-opening win at Reagan Athletic Complex.

 "I just don't think this group presses the panic button," Wilde said.

Next Up

With the win, the Red Devils improved to 9-9 on the season and 5-2 in SLIAC play. They will take on Blackburn (7-12, 9-2) on the road on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.