On Tuesday, November 17, the Emmaus Eagles traveled to Illinois to play against NCAA Division III opponent Eureka College. Continuing the trend of playing tough opponents to start off the year, the coaching staff was looking for the guys to play a solid game of basketball to gain some momentum heading into the final games before Thanksgiving break.
Emmaus looked to get to a fast start against Eureka as three minutes into the game, Eureka's second leading scorer went to the bench with two fouls. However, the Eagles were unable to capitalize as the officiating was calling the game very tight and Nathaniel Glidewell and Nathan Davidson picked up two quick fouls as well. The fouls continued to mount as Emmaus was unable to adjust to how the referees were making the calls. Instead, trying to not put themselves in a position to foul, the Eagles allowed easy touches which led to baskets and Eureka mounted an early lead. Despite this, Emmaus kept themselves in the game with good play by senior Skyler Sandry and freshman Cody Nicely. The lead was only at 13 right before the half when an untimely foul at the buzzer led to Eureka making two free throws to push the lead to 15 at the break.
In the locker room, Coach Wilkerson tried to light a fire under the team by telling them that they were still in the game but they needed to play as a team and step it up on the defensive end. "For whatever reason, the defense we have practiced since preseason disappeared after our victory over UW-Richland. We need to find a way to get back to that if we want any chance to succeed against the type of teams we are facing."
The second half brought more of the same as Eureka continued to pass the ball around and get open looks. Emmaus attempted to try different strategies to gain some type of edge: different lineups, a press, a motion offense. However, the youth again showed as the Eagles did not practice team basketball and instead looked to shoot early in the shot clock rather than pass the ball around.
When the final horn blew, Emmaus had lost 100-75. A lot of different emotions were present in the locker room as the Eagles had an open dialogue to talk about where they sat seven games into the season. Senior captains Caleb Ruter and Skyler Sandry challenged themselves and the team to get back to playing team basketball and really show the effort needed to compete.
Despite the loss, there were some encouraging signs. All 5 starters finished in double digits with Sandry leading the way with 20 points. Cody Nicely had 8 assists to go along with his 12 points. The Eagles shot above 80% from the foul line with both Ruter and Caleb Postma shooting perfect from the line.
Emmaus will play two more NCAA Division III teams this weekend in both Wartburg and either UW-Stout or Monmouth in the Buzz Levick Tournament hosted by Wartburg college. The Eagles will play the host at 8 p.m. Friday followed by another game on Saturday to be determined by the results of Friday's games.