Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Seals logs 24 minutes in first collegiate game for Eureka College

PHOTO / ALEX STAAB
Eureka, Ill. - A lot of area basketball teams have officially started their seasons recently. Wednesday, it was time for the Eureka Red Devils women (0-1) (0-0). They would take on a familiar opponent in the Knox Prairie Fire (1-1) (0-0).

The first quarter got off to a decent start for the Red Devils, as the three pointer was working well for them, going nearly 50% from behind the arc. Samantha Sarnes was a key player in the opening period, scoring all seven of her points in the first 10 minutes. Metamora alum Sierrah Seals would check in for the first time in her collegiate career about midway through the first. After a quarter, Eureka just about had a double figure lead, 19-10.

When it came to that start, Eureka Head Coach Amos Arbogast agreed, also citing efforts in the entire game.

"We moved the ball well, especially in the first quarter. We had a good flow. That just comes natural. We have kids that can make shots. That's what we expect. The first, third, and fourth quarter is pretty much what we expect from our team. That's what we need to do in order to be successful."

Next, the second quarter was not what the Red Devils wanted by any stretch. An 11-2 run by Knox College to start things turned a nine-point lead into a tied game at 21 apiece. The foul situation and defensive rebounding seemed to be factors for Eureka. The Prairie Fire, on the other hand, came out firing on all cylinders in the second, nearly tripling their score before the break. The Red Devils would not reach double figures in the scoring column for the first time since the fourth quarter of a season-ending loss to Webster back on February 23rd. That slow start by Eureka had the visiting Prairie Fire within nine at the half.

Coach Arbogast said that there were numerous things that resulted in the second quarter being what it was.

"We got in foul trouble, and that hurt us. We got in a funk. They went on a run. We've got a lot of young kids that are getting experience right now. Eight points is bad for a team like us that is a pretty good offensive team. That clearly is the thing that stands out. We had 17 turnovers in the first half. That's 17 chances to score that we didn't."

Eureka was able to turn things around throughout most of the second half, it just became a matter of whether or not they'd be able to hold off Knox. The lowest-scoring quarter since a three-point opening quarter in an exhibition against Western Illinois last season, turned into just the opposite. A basket plus the foul for Lexi Dooley was a key play of the quarter. Free throws and a late quarter push made it a 10-point lead for the Prairie Fire with just a quarter to go.

What was said at halftime, according to Arbogast, was mainly turnovers and the fouling situation, but other things as well.

"We tweaked some things. Obviously talked about the turnovers and the fouls. We cleaned that stuff up. We needed to make more free throws. We still gave up too many points in the third. That's something we've talked about a lot too. When you get down, it's easier for the other team to make shots. I think that's what we saw in the third quarter, especially. They had some confidence because they had a lead to play with."

The fourth quarter would come down to the last couple of plays, as the Red Devils managed to pull back and make it a very intense finish. Despite holding the Prairie Fire to 27% shooting in the fourth quarter, it just wasn't enough. Dooley would foul out late with a team-high 15 points, and Eureka would end up with a loss to start the season by a score of 73-68.

As to what led the Red Devils back into the game, Prairie Fire Head Coach Emily Cline kept it simple.

"Eureka played a great game, but we made a lot of mistakes in the late part of the game. We were thrilled just to get out of here with a victory. We're playing a lot of freshmen. Lot of unforced errors. We kept the door open longer than I was comfortable with."

Coach Arbogast added the familiarity factor, saying that this was a very similar group to what they squared off against a season ago, an 82-77 loss in Galesburg to open up the 17-18 campaign.

"Credit goes to Knox. They have the same starting lineup that they had last year. They're a veteran team. They didn't get rattled when we took a lead. We thought we had a good chance to win this game. We're obviously disappointed with the loss. We're going to figure stuff out right away."

As for Seals, who totaled the fifth-most minutes on the team with exactly 24:49 played, she was ready to go for her first college game.

"It was great. I was really excited for the game. It turned out to be not what we were hoping, but everyone worked hard. I was glad that I got to be in with the team."

It wasn't just 24 minutes in the middle of the game. Coach Arbogast had Seals out on the floor in the last seconds of the game, showing he has trust in her to be one of those five in those kinds of situations. Yet Seals says it's a collective effort.

"I think he trusts a lot of people on the team. Due to fouling situations and stuff like that, we were kind of in a bind, but at the end, a lot of people stepped up. We just couldn't finish."

Arbogast had a lot of high praise for one of his eight freshmen in Seals.

"She did a great job of giving so much energy. She plays so hard all the time. Everything she got tonight, she earned through hard work. Hats off to her. She did a great job moving the ball against the zone. She's done a great job with buying in and accepting the role that we've placed her in. Her versatility is great. I expect her to keep on that trajectory."

For those that are familiar, there's sometimes a phrase that your team didn't lose the game, the opponent won, or vice versa. Seals says this certainly could've gone Eureka's way.

"I think we definitely could've pulled this one out. We had a couple too many turnovers and couldn't dig ourselves out."

The Red Devils have a quick turnaround, playing Robert Morris-Springfield 22.5 hours after the tipoff of Wednesday night's game. Coach Arbogast thinks you could go either way on a situation like this one.

"On one hand, as a coach, I would love to go through a practice and fix all the mistakes that I'm going to find out when I watch the film. On the other hand, from the confidence and from a 'get back on the horse' standpoint, to turn around and be able to play tomorrow, get an opportunity to get the bad taste out of our mouth."

The second-year head coach adds that it is a benefit for his players.

"As long as we take care of business, it's a positive. The kids are looking forward to having a chance to redeem themselves immediately."

The Red Devils home game against the Eagles tips off at 6:00 pm from the Reagan Athletic Complex.

Eureka College Scoring: 
Lexi Dooley (15), Ashley Harfst (14), Kennedy Dura (12), Ja'Keesha Hawkins (8), Samantha Sarnes (7), Olivia Falls (6), Sierrah Seals (3), Josie Morgan (3)

Eureka College Team Stats:
FGs | 21 for 64 (32.8%)
3's | 9 for 25 (36%)
FTs | 17 for 27 (63%)
Rebounds | 44
Fouls | 23
Assists | 14
Turnovers | 21
Steals | 9
Blocks | 0

Eureka College Individual Leaders:
FGs | Lexi Dooley (5 for 14)
3's | Kennedy Dura (3 for 7)
FTs | Ashley Harfst (6 for 8)
Rebounds | Lexi Dooley (14)
Assists | Kennedy Dura (6)
Steals | Josie Morgan (3)

Next Game:
Thursday, November 15th
vs. Robert Morris-Springfield
6:00 pm

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