EUREKA – Although they’ve hit a decent-sized rough patch, one would never know it by Eureka’s performance on Tuesday evening.
The Hornets stood toe-to-toe with a soon-to-be 20-win Tremont ballclub, holding the lead for the first 25 minutes of the Heart of Illinois Conference tussle. The Turks eventually forced overtime and squeaked by the hosts 68-65.
Eureka (8-16, 2-6) made seven of their first 10 field goal attempts, as they scored the first eight points. Their lead grew to 13-3 after a triple from Trevor Heffren.
According to Hornets’ head coach Tim Meiss, the offensive execution was at as high a level as the group has displayed the entire season.
“I think even for a whole game,” he said. “We had more patience and moved the ball more.”
The Turks (19-7, 8-3), who sank eight baskets in the first half, converted seven in the third quarter to claw within 43-41.
Sensing the pace was getting too fast, Eureka elected to go to a zone on defense.
“At the time, we were trying to change the tempo,” commented Meiss. “We were trying to get them (Tremont) out of sync.”
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A three-pointer from Isaac Lennington put the guests on top for the first time at 46-45 early in the fourth quarter.
Another Heffren trey put Eureka back ahead 49-48.
An offensive rebound putback by Shemar Williams tied it at 57 with two minutes and two seconds left. Neither team scored for the remainder, which triggered an additional four-minute session.
With the way the Hornets began shooting the basketball, Tremont switched from the man on defense to a 1-3-1.
“I thought there was a chance,” said Meiss of whether or not the Turks would go zone. “We talked about it. I knew they played a little bit of that.”
Heffren put the hosts up 59-57 to begin the overtime before Tremont strung back-to-back threes from Titus Thompson and Lennington to lead 63-59.
The Turks’ leading scorer, Landon Pflederer, paced the guests with 26 points. Thompson (16) and Lennington (11) also were in double figures, as Tremont shot 51 percent (25 of 49).
Heffren, who scored 30 points in the season opener versus Fisher, matched that total against Tremont. Aden Sears added 14 points for Eureka, who shot 50 percent (25 of 50),
While the loss was the hosts’ ninth in the past 11 games, their longtime coach is still optimistic.
“I think they have confidence in themselves,” Meiss said. “We have been getting better. It’s not translating into wins. I think we can be a dangerous team.”