Red Devils Clip Fontbonne to Stay Atop SLIAC, 61-57

Photo Courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand
Photo Courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand

EUREKA, Ill. – A 3-point play from Eureka College sophomore forward Lexi Dooley (Sutter, Ill./Warsaw H.S.) in the final minute provided the ninth and final lead change of Wednesday's St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference game against Fontbonne, sending the Red Devils to a 61-57 league win over the Griffins at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena. Junior guard Kerrigan Dura (Edwards, Ill./Brimfield H.S.) led the hosts with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Raven Venegas's jumper with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter broke the 10th and final tied score of the game and gave the visitors a 57-55 advantage. Eureka answered with Dooley's 3-point play just 22 seconds later on the ensuing possession for a 58-57 edge.

The Griffins later missed two looks at the go-ahead basket before Eureka extended its lead to 60-57 on two free throws from Dura with 13 seconds left. FU missed what would have been a game-tying triple with 10 seconds left before the Red Devils added an insurance free throw with just one second to play.

Eureka had to play from behind for most of Wednesday's contest, falling behind 11-0 after Katie Sportsman's bucket at the 2:11 mark of the first period. The Red Devils responded with a 7-2 run to close the quarter.

Fontbonne led for the remainder of the half, but the Red Devils trimmed their deficit to as little as three points on three different occasions in the final three minutes before halftime. A layup from junior guard Hayley Reneau (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S./Illinois Central) with 52 seconds left pulled the Red Devils within 29-26 at the break.

Reneau connected from long range on the first possession of the second half for a 29-29 tie. The Griffins quickly pushed their lead back to 34-29, but EC punched back with six in a row and took its first lead of the game (35-34) on two free throws from Dura with 7:41 left in the third quarter.

Neither team was able to extend the lead beyond three points over the remainder of the contest until the Red Devils set the final four-point margin with one second to play.

Dura finished with 20 points, 10 rebounds and four steals for her second career double-double. Reneau chipped in 18 points and six boards and senior forward Michaela Balducci (Eureka, Ill./Eureka H.S.) hauled down 13 rebounds.

Venegas paced the visitors with 14 points. Emily Haring, who entered the contest as the national leader in assists, had eight assists in the loss. The Griffins went just 1-for-12 from 3-point range Wednesday.

Wednesday's victory improved the Red Devils to 4-0 in SLIAC play, Eureka's best start to a league schedule since beginning its exclusive affiliation with NCAA Division III in 1996. The 4-0 mark is good enough for sole possession of first place in the league standings.

Eureka will try to win its fifth straight league contest Saturday when the Red Devils visit MacMurray for a 1 p.m. tip-off in Jacksonville, Ill.