GALESBURG, Ill. – The Eureka women's basketball team pulled off a comeback for the ages at Knox on Wednesday night.
After trailing by 18 points early in the second half, the Red Devils chipped away until they were on top, triumphing over the Prairie Fire in overtime, 83-76.
"It's crazy," sophomore Olivia Falls (Bloomington, Ill./Bloomington) said. "We just had to fight. We did what we knew we were supposed to do. First quarter, we didn't box out at all, but once we cleaned that up, we knew, even then, this was our game."
The Red Devils got significant contributions from nearly its whole roster.
Falls, a sophomore, had a monster performance, dropping a career-high 24-points on 9-for-11 shooting and pulling down 13 rebounds. Senior Ashley Harfst (Saunemin, Ill./Pontiac) also had a double-double, delivering 20 points while knocking down 12 of 14 free throws and gathering 12 boards.
Fellow senior Kennedy Dura (Edwards, Ill./Brimfield) notched 14 points to go with nine rebounds and five assists. She went 4-for-9 from beyond the arc, hitting all four in the second half and two in the fourth quarter.
Whitney Bozarth (Normal, Ill./Normal West) and Ja'Keesha Hawkins (Peoria, Ill./Peoria added 10 and nine points, respectively, and both tallied six rebounds. Marissa Murphy (Canton, Ill./Canton) posted seven rebounds off the bench.
It was EC's first overtime victory since Jan. 10, 2018 when the team outlasted Westminster on the road.
Eureka got off to a slow start, falling into an 11-2 hole right off the bat. The Prairie Fire's lead ballooned to 17 points with 1:40 left in the first half, and the Red Devils went into halftime down 12 points at 41-29.
In the third quarter, a 3-pointer by Knox's Jarrelyn McCall stretched the advantage to 18 with 8:19 left in the frame.
The Red Devils responded by going on an 11-0 run, with a Dura 3-pointer with 3:56 left in the quarter making it seven-point game and prompting a timeout by the home team. They outscored the Prairie Fire 18-12 in the third and trimmed the deficit to six heading into the final frame.
"The third quarter, we were talking about it (completing the comeback)," Falls said. "We were seeing our openings. We had good communication. Everybody was staying positive. Once a couple plays got a little feisty, it honestly energized us. We knew we had to come out here and kill it."
EC cut the lead to three points twice before another Dura 3-pointer tied the game with 6:56 left in regulation and a pair of free throws by Hawkins gave the visitors their first lead of the night.
Nyah Daniels' 3-pointer with 5:06 left gave Knox a four-point advantage, but EC made the difference with four straight made free throws by Harfst. When a Daniels bucket returned the lead, EC responded with a six-point swing: a pair of free throws by both Hawkins and Falls, and a big finish by Falls that gave the maroon and gold a four-point edge.
Knox's last lead of the fourth came on a jumper by Jordyn Dole with 1:17 remaining. Again, a Dura triple tied the game with 1:02 left and no one scored in regulation after that.
In OT, Knox struck first, with Saxon Alvarez hitting from distance about a minute in, but a Falls bucket through contact and a Hawkins triple put EC back on top.
The Red Devils took care of business at the line and outscored the purple and gold 13-6 to seal the win. The team made 25 of 36 free throws on the night, including 14 of 18 in the fourth quarter and overtime. And after the first half, EC outrebounded Knox 36-30.
"Honestly, it was just our hustle," Falls said. "We were defeated in the first quarter because we felt like stuff just wasn't working right. We had a talk at halftime, and we came out and we just knew."
With the win, the Red Devils improved to 2-0 on the season following last weekend's season-opening rout at Rockford.
EC will next play an exhibition game at Bradley on Saturday at 1 p.m.