EUREKA – Holding a lead of a half dozen with one quarter to go, Eureka was in position to take possession of the McLean County traveling trophy on Tuesday night.
Deer Creek-Mackinaw had other plans, as the Chiefs rallied to tip the Heart of Illinois Conference hosts 43-35.
At one stage, Eureka (14-6, 3-3) was on top at 32-24 before a bucket from Sam Scott ignited a 19-3 push on the part of the Chiefs (17-4, 6-1) that spilled into the fourth quarter.
“You’re hoping, but they just defend so well. You’re just fighting tooth and nail,” commented Eureka coach Tim Meiss of DCM. “They’re physical. They can bring in players off the bench. They can put ball pressure on. They did a good job of that.”
The Hornets converted just one of nine field attempts over the final period.
“We had some opportunities,” pointed out Meiss. “We had some backdoor layup attempts. They just did not go in.”
A three-pointer from Jared Kilby put DCM ahead 36-35 with three minutes and 18 remaining. It was their first lead since 8-5 early in the second stanza.
Kilby finished with 11 points off the bench, while leading scorer Levi Scheuermann tallied 13.
It was Scheuermann who nailed the go-ahead three with 18 seconds left to give the Chiefs a 49-48 win on Jan. 11 at their Route 9 neighbor to the west in Tremont that allowed them to grab possession of the traveling trophy.
DCM uses multiple offensive sets, which can be tricky to defend.
“We felt they had about three basic ones,” Meiss explained. “I thought out kids adjusted well to what we did not scheme against. We cannot fault our effort. Defensively, I thought we played a tremendous game.”
The Chiefs finished 15 of 39 from the field for 38 percent.
Meanwhile, only three Hornets got into the scoring column. Keegan Zimmerman had a game-high 17 points, including all 13 in the third quarter. Brady Krile tallied 10 points and Adam Anderson followed with eight.
The Hornets were 15 of 49 shooting for 31 percent.
From the Eureka camp, they felt they let one slip away.
“It’s disappointing we were not able to finish it out,” said Meiss. “Give a lot of credit to Dee Mack for picking up their intensity. We have to get better at that.”
Neither team attempted a free throw the entire first half. The first was not shot until 4:59 left in the third quarter.
Notes: Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley is the current holder of the traveling trophy, as they knocked off visiting DCM 41-37 this past Friday. The Falcons held it from Jan. 30 to Nov. 21 before they relinquished it with a loss to Fisher in their Thanksgiving week tourney to start the season. Since a 1-2 start, GCMS is on a 16-game win streak.