EUREKA — With one of the top teams in the SLIAC in town, the Eureka women delivered the kind of performance coach Amos Arbogast knew his team was capable of.
The Red Devils grabbed an early lead, rose to the challenge of Webster's pressure and grinded out a 77-72 win over the Gorloks at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center Saturday afternoon.
The win was EC's first over a top-four team this season, and it bumped the team to .500 on the year — 10-10 and 5-7 in the conference. Webster fell to 15-6 and 9-4 in the SLIAC.
EC junior Ashley Harfst (Saunemin, Ill./Pontiac) dropped a team-high 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting, knocking down 2 of 3 from distance and sinking 6 of 7 free-throw attempts to lead a group of five Red Devils who reached double figures. She also pulled down a team-high 10 of the EC's 38 rebounds.
Freshman Olivia Falls (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) added 13 points, gathered seven boards and made 5 of 6 free throws. Fellow freshman Josie Morgan (Washington, Ill./Washington) registered 10 points and a team-high six assists while handling the high-intensity press that the Gorloks threw at the Red Devils for most of the game, along with backcourt partner Kennedy Dura (Edwards, Ill./Brimfield).
The Red Devils also got significant contributions from reserves Sierrah Seals (East Peoria, Ill./Metamora) and Ja'Keesha Hawkins (Peoria, Ill./Peoria). Seals, a freshman, came off the bench, shot 5-for-8 from the field and posted 11 points in 26 minutes. Hawkins, a senior, shot 4-for-9, hit a pair of 3s and finished with 10 points in 27 minutes.
Dura, a junior, added nine points, a team-high three steals and a pair of assists. As a team, the Red Devils shot 38.6 percent from the field and 83.3 percent from the line.
Webster got on the board with a pair of free throws 15 seconds in the game, but with a pair of Falls layups, EC took the lead 40 seconds later, and never gave it back.
A 3-pointer by Hawkins extended it to 12 with a 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the first quarter, forcing a Webster timeout and letting the crowd know that an upset might be afoot.
Webster stayed in the game, however, by finding ways to get to the free-throw line. The Gorloks made 7 of 10 in the first quarter and 11 of 13 in the second. They also forced eight EC turnovers in the second frame.
But Saturday was a day that Eureka was comfortable trading punches. Every time the Gorloks threatened, EC had an emphatic answer.
When they came within 3 with 3:28 left in the first half, Morgan put her defender on skates with a nasty crossover and dished it to Hawkins for another triple that turned the heat up on the visitors.
Abby Swope (Canton, Ill./Canton) ended a two-minute scoreless streak with a jumper after a feed by Hawkins with 1:23 left to make it 36-31, and Harfst put away a pair at the line after a layup by Webster's Naomi Johnson brought the Gorloks back within three.
The Red Devils went into the half with a four-point cushion and proceeded to own the third quarter, outscoring Webster 26-11 after Harfst nailed a trey at the buzzer.
They briefly led by as many as 17 early in the fourth, but the Gorloks shot 46.7 percent from the field to get back in the game.
Webster made it a two-point game after Kaylee Heggemann blocked Dura and rifled it to Jaysea Morgan for a fastbreak layup with 48 seconds left.
But EC put away 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch to seal it. Harfst scored seven of the Red Devils' 11 points in the fourth quarter and 15 of her 20 in the second half.
Johnson finished with a team-high 18 points and five assists for Webster. Hannah Cottrell added 14 and Heggemann and Jaysea Morgan had 13 apiece.
The Gorloks entered the game leading the league in several statistical categories, including rebounding and forced turnovers. Eureka outrebounded them 38-35 and forced 21 turnovers to their 18.