Eureka Beats MacMurray to Clinch Share of SLIAC Crown, 86-48

Courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand.
Courtesy of Michael Hammerstrand.

EUREKA, Ill. -- The Eureka College women's basketball team defeated MacMurray Wednesday night, 86-48, clinching a share of the institution's first-ever St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team championship. It is the Red Devils' first women's basketball conference title since 1990-91. Junior Hayley Reneau (Washington, Ill./Washington H.S./Illinois Central) scored a career-high 28 points to lead the Red Devils.

The regular-season championship is Eureka's College's first in any team sport as a member of the SLIAC. The Red Devils joined the league prior to the 2006-07 season. Eureka has also earned its first conference title in a female sport since winning the Northern Illinois-Iowa Conference volleyball crown in 1997.

Eureka previously won women's basketball conference championships as a member of the NAIA Prairie College Conference in 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1991.

The Red Devils took control of Wednesday's league contest early, doubling up the Highlanders 20-10 on a layup by freshman guard Ashley Harfst (Saunemin, Ill./Pontiac H.S.) in the final minute of the first period. The basket came as part of an 8-0 EC run to close the quarter.

EC led by as many as 20 points in the second quarter, but the Highlanders closed the half on an 8-0 run to trail 36-24 at intermission.

The hosts put the game out of reach in the final four minutes of the third quarter. A 15-8 burst over the final 4:47 of the quarter allowed EC to control a 67-45 advantage. Eureka outscored MacMurray 19-3 in the final 10 minutes.

Reneau scored 28 points, the most by a Red Devil this season, thanks to a 12-for-17 effort from the field. Balducci tacked on 16 points and 10 rebounds, while senior Luci Weis (Bloomington, Ill./Normal Community H.S.) and junior Kerrigan Dura (Edwards, Ill./Brimfield H.S.) each netted 10 points. Junior Lexi Dooley (Sutter, Ill./Warsaw H.S.) hauled down 10 rebounds.

All 11 Red Devils played at least six minutes, 10 of which scored. EC grabbed 54 rebounds and outscored the Highlanders in the paint, 38-10.

The Red Devils will host second-place Greenville Saturday at 1 p.m. Eureka needs one more victory over its final three regular-season games to win the SLIAC championship outright.