EUREKA - For over 10 months, the Eureka girls’ basketball team has been the possessor of the McLean County traveling trophy.
The next challenger to try to gain it, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley, could not overcome over two dozen turnovers in a 59-38 setback to the Heart of Illinois Conference hosts on Nov. 26.
“GCMS is a dangerous team,” pointed out Hornets’ coach Jerry Prina. “Right before the game, I told them there were only three HOIC who had the trophy last year and they were one of them. GCMS helped us when they beat Heyworth and gave them their second loss. We got it back when we beat them (GCMS) in the quarterfinals of the tournament.”
Holding a 14-9 lead, Eureka (9-0, 4-0) went on a 13-0 run over the first four minutes and 30 seconds of the second quarter. They held a 27-9 advantage after a pair of Natalie Anderson free throws.
The Falcons (5-3, 2-1) broke the snide with a successful charity toss from Ryleigh Brown.
Eureka’s pressure led to 11 turnovers in the first half by GCMS and 14 more in the second for a total of 25 on the night.
“Actually at the beginning, when we were pressing, they were dumping it in the middle so we had to move a couple of girls,” explained Prina. “They penetrated our zone the first eight or 10 trips. If they would have scored, we could have been behind.”
As it turned out, the margin never dipped below 11. The Hornets’ largest lead was 26 at 48-22 on a bucket from Anderson, who finished with a game-high 23 points while Courtney Heffren added 12.
The offense will continue to be centered around the duo of the 5-foot-11 junior forward Anderson and Heffren, the senior point guard.
“Take those two girls playing Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) ball, we’re not hiding them.” Prina said. “Everybody knows what they’re doing with their stats in the paper. I feel like they’ve stepped up and are handling it well.”
Lauren Ausmus was also in double figures with 11 points for the hosts, who shot 47 percent (23 of 49) from the floor.
Hannah Hathaway and Makenzi Biefeldt each had 10 points for the Falcons, who connected on 16 of 42 field goal attempts for 38 percent. They missed all seven shots from behind the arc.
While the Hornets had not played in a week, GCMS last had a game on Nov. 16 so whichever squad shook off the cobwebs quicker would have the advantage.
“On top of that, we did not have school so I was nervous to be honest with you,” added Prina. “I felt like we got a couple of layups early that took some of the pressure off of them.”