For Immediate Release
Men's Basketball -- Feb. 18, 2012
Westminster Edges Eureka Men's Basketball, 76-74
FULTON, Mo. – Westminster senior guard Kurt Kovach scored a game-high 25 points, helping the Blue Jays win their fourth consecutive contest and continue their postseason push in a 76-74 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win over the Eureka College men’s basketball team, Saturday night in Fulton, Mo.
The two squads played to four ties in a back-and-forth first half before Eureka (15-9, 11-4 SLIAC) junior center Mark Lessen (Delavan, Ill./Delavan H.S.) scored in the paint to cap a 7-0 run for the Eureka’s lead of the half, 35-27. The Blue Jays (15-10, 11-5 SLIAC) responded with five straight points in the final 81 seconds of the half, and Eureka carried a 35-32 lead into halftime.
The hosts forced the fifth tie of the night, 40-40, when Kovach hit one of his three 3-pointers of the night with 16:47 to play. He followed with a pair of foul shots on the Blue Jays’ ensuing possession to give the hosts a 42-40 edge, their first lead since the 14:33 mark of the first half. The game featured 12 lead changes over the next 11-minutes, 11-seconds.
Eureka took its final lead of the night when junior guard Rian Nailor (Rock Falls, Ill./Rock Falls H.S./Sauk Valley) knocked down a 3-pointer to lead 65-64 with 5:30 remaining. Kovach answered with a jumper on the next possession, and the Blue Jays would lead for the remainder of the contest.
The Red Devils trailed by as many as seven, 72-65, but ultimately clawed back within a single possession in the final minute of the game. Nailor pushed in two free throws with 48 seconds left to cut the deficit to 76-74, and the Red Devils followed with a defensive stop when Joe James missed a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left. Following a Eureka timeout with 9.6 seconds left, the Red Devils were unable to convert at the offensive end as time expired.
Lessen paced the Red Devils with 20 points and eight rebounds. Nailor and junior forward Dustin Fritsch (Sterling, Ill./Sterling H.S./Sauk Valley) each added 16. The Red Devils and Blue Jays played to nine ties and 18 lead changes overall on Saturday.
Saturday’s decision clinched a SLIAC Tournament berth for the Blue Jays. Eureka and Westminster will meet in the semifinal round of the tournament on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Wesbster’s Grant Gymnasium in St. Louis, Mo.
Eureka will bring its regular season schedule to a close this Tuesday night at MacMurray. Tip-off against the Highlanders in Jacksonville, Ill. is scheduled for 8 p.m. A Eureka victory on Tuesday, coupled with a Webster defeat against Fontbonne, would give the Red Devils a share of the SLIAC regular season title.
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