EUREKA – The Eureka men's basketball team did it again on Saturday.
With its back against the wall, the Red Devils erased a 14-point deficit and seized an 84-81 overtime victory over Principia on Saturday.
It was the team's fifth comeback triumph of St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. And it happened on a Senior Day that wasn't going Eureka's way until the Red Devils successfully closed the gap at the end of regulation and held the Panthers off in overtime.
In his last regular-season game at Reagan Athletic Complex, senior point guard Jalen Hosea (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) stepped up and made the shot of the day, a game-tying 3-pointer that sent the game into overtime in the final seconds of regulation.
"One word that I can describe our team today, which would be resilience," Hosea said. "We came back, we fought, we stuck together, and we came back and pulled out the W."
The Red Devil trailed by three points after Principia's Jake Kampf drained the go-ahead triple from the right elbow with 13.6 seconds left.
Eureka called timeout with 8.1 seconds remaining to set up a game-tying play. When play resumed, senior Ian Milsteadt (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria/Illinois Central College) inbounded the ball to Logan Dorethy (Hamilton, Ill./West Hancock/Hannibal LaGrange), who handed it right back to Milsteadt for a quick 3-point attempt near the corner.
Milsteadt's shot didn't fall, but senior J'Len Crawford (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) followed the board and sent it out to Hosea to the right of the top of the key. He promptly knocked it down to to tie the game at 72-72 with little time remaining.
"It was big," Hosea said. "Right now, I'm focusing on confidence. I'm trying to get my confidence at a high level and keep it there. We've got the tournament coming up next week, and we all got to be playing at the highest level. Obviously, with me being a senior, I know I've got to bring it."
On Tuesday at 7 p.m., Eureka will play Principia for the third time in just over a week, when the second-seeded Red Devils (14-11, 10-4 SLIAC) host the seventh-seeded Panthers (9-4, 5-9 SLIAC) in a SLIAC Tournament quarterfinal game at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena and Convocation Center.
The Red Devils will enter Tuesday's game with a 2-0 record against Principia after narrowly avoiding a season split on Saturday.
On the first possession of overtime, Charlie McKinty (Elmwood, Ill./Elmwood/Illinois College) attacked the basket, got fouled and made both free throws to give Eureka a two-point edge. Milsetadt then knocked down a jumper to extend the lead to four.
Principia scored the next four points on free throws, then briefly took the lead on a layup by Clark Davidson on the next possession. Dorethy answered with a layup through contact following a feed by Milsteadt on the very next play, and put away the go-ahead free throw to make it 79-78 with 1:32 left.
After the Panthers failed to answer, Eureka called timeout and Milsteadt hit a jumper to make it a 3-point lead with a minute left to play.
The Red Devils forced a backcourt violation on the next Principia opportunity to respond. Then, after a missed 3-pointer, Milsteadt made a steal and fouled on his way up on a fastbreak layup.
With less than 10 seconds remaining, Milsteadt put away both free throws to give the Red Devils a five-point advantage.
Principia's Clark Davidson came back with a triple on the other end, forcing the Panthers to foul Milsteadt with less than a second left. He made 1 of 2 to make it 84-81 with .6 left on the clock.
On the visitors' last chance, Crawford intercepted Kevin Wingert's baseball pass as time expired, and Red Devil Nation breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Five Red Devils finished in double figures.
Milsteadt finished with a team-high 17 points on 5-of-15 shooting while going 6-of-7 from the line, making a 3 and adding four rebounds, two assists and a steal. He is now 15 points away from becoming the 26th player in program history to reach 1,000 points as a Red Devil.
McKinty followed with 15 points while hitting 4 of 9 from downtown. He also grabbed six rebounds, dished two assist and had a steal.
Hosea tallied 14 points, seven rebounds, six assists and one steal, all without committing a single turnover.
Dorethy added 10 points, including several big ones down the stretch, and junior Austyn Ellison (Hudson, Ill./Bloomington Central Catholic) notched 10 points as well. Crawford notched seven points, five rebounds, two steals and an assist.
Lane Thompson (Dwight, Ill./Dwight) came off the bench and grabbed eight boards in minutes, and added six points.
Before the game, Hosea, Milsteadt, Crawford, Jordan Brooks (St. Joseph, Ill./St. Joseph-Ogden/Lincoln Land), Peyton McCubbin (Clinton, Ill./Clinton/MacMurray) and Bryce Logsdon (Meridian, Idaho/Timberline) were all honored for their contribution to the program on Senior Day. McCubbin and Logsdon each recorded the first starts of their career.
Eureka jumped out to a 7-2 lead, but then went cold for a while. The Panthers took control and led by as many as 14 late in the first half.
The Red Devil trimmed the lead to eight by halftime. It took time for them to whittle the lead down in the second half.
A 3-pointer by Crawford cut the lead to five less than six minutes in, but Principia responded. Eureka didn't get within five again until there was less than nine minutes left.
Thompson scored on a putback to make it 62-58, but the Panthers answered with a 3. Finally, with less than five minutes left, a Dorethy jumper made it a three-point game. With 2:14 remaining, a trey by McKinty evened the score for the first time since early in the first half.
That was the last bucket until Kampf nailed the go-ahead 3 with 10 seconds left, preceding Hosea's last-second heroics.
The third Eureka-Principia clash is less than three days away.
"At this moment, it's win-or-go home," Hosea said. "We're feeling really good. You know, we're going to practice, look at some things, go hard and we'll be ready by Tuesday."