JACKSONVILLE, Ill. – Eureka College junior forward Dustin Fritsch (Sterling, Ill./Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) led all players with 18 points and 13 rebounds for his 10th double-double of the campaign, but host MacMurray overcame a sluggish start to earn a 76-62 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win over the Red Devils, Tuesday night in Jacksonville, Ill.
Eureka (15-10, 11-5 SLIAC) came out of the gate strong, connecting on four of its first six first field goal attempts and keeping the Highlanders off the board for nearly four minutes in a 10-0 run to open the game. Eureka led by 10 points on three different occasions in the first half. The hosts quickly recovered to pull back within two points, 14-12, when Dylan Guthrie scored with 10:43 left in the half.
The Red Devils led for the duration of the half and ultimately carried a 32-26 cushion into the locker room. Fritsch paced the Red Devils with seven points in the first 20 minutes, while MacMurray's Clayton Whitlock led all scorers in the first half with eight points.
Eureka led by as many as eight points in second half after Fritsch's triple gave the visitors a 40-32 lead with 17:27 left in the game. The Highlanders regained the momentum over the next five minutes of action, taking their first lead of the night on Luke Bishop's 3-pointer for a 50-49 edge with 12:35 remaining. The Red Devils answered with a basket from junior guard Rian Nailor (Rock Falls, Ill./Rock Falls H.S./Sauk Valley) on EC's ensuing trip, but Guthrie gave MacMurray the lead for good, 52-51, just eight seconds later.
The Highlanders were aided in their comeback bid by a 20-for-28 effort from the floor in the second half. MacMurray also made five of six 3-point attempts in the final 20 minutes. Guthrie and Brady Slagle each scored 13 points after intermission.
Eureka junior Jordan Kindred (Chrisman, Ill./Chrisman H.S.) scored 15 points to join Fritsch as Red Devils to score in double-figures. Nailor added 12.
Tuesday's result gives the Red Devils the #3 seed in the 2012 SLIAC Tournament, scheduled to begin Thursday on the campus of Webster University in St. Louis, Mo. Eureka will play #2 Westminster in the semifinals Thursday at 6 p.m. The Red Devils and Blue Jays split their regular season series and will be playing on a neutral floor for the first time since becoming SLIAC rivals in 2006.
MacMurray, which secured the final tournament berth with its victory on Tuesday, will play top-seeded Webster in the nightcap at 8 p.m. The two semifinal winners will square off for the tournament crown and the SLIAC's automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Tournament on Saturday at 1 p.m. in St. Louis. Eureka is 2-2 in two previous appearances at the SLIAC Tournament, earning runner-up finishes in 2007 and 2010.