The stuff of legend?
Not exactly, but Thomas Reuter’s game-saving play Saturday afternoon will do for now.
Reuter’s young Eastern Washington teammates had lost their composure, the lead and finally the ball, but the Eagles celebrated a 57-54 Big Sky Conference basketball win over Idaho State largely because of Reuter’s heroics in the final seconds.
Leading 55-54 with 10 seconds left, the Eagles’ Justin Crosgile lost the ball even as the Eagles were trying to call a timeout. The ball went straight to Idaho State’s Andre Hatchett, who led a three-man fastbreak against a scrambling Reuter.
“I saw we’d lost the ball and I tried to hustle back on defense,” said Reuter, a 6-foot-6 true freshman from Breckerfeld, Germany.
“I thought he (Hatchett) was going to pass it at first, then I saw he was going to shoot it.”
Hatchett was 6 feet from the basket when Reuter “jumped as high as I could” to get the block, then snared the ball and was fouled with 7.5 seconds left. Two free throws later, the Eagles celebrated a win that improved their record to 3-9 entering the holiday break.
The Eagles, 1-1 in the Big Sky, get 12 days off before their next game on Jan. 3 at Montana.
“Today was all about winning,” said Reuter of a game against a 1-9 team that has yet to beat a Division I team this season.
“The block was important to me, especially because I was struggling.”
So were the rest of the Eagles, who led 29-22 at halftime before missing 14 of their next 19 shots and falling behind 46-41 with 6:25 left against a tenacious ISU defense. It could have been worse, but the Bengals’ Chris Hansen barely missed a wide-open 3 from the right corner with 5:53 left that would have made it 48-41.
But EWU guard Jeffrey Forbes hit a big 3-pointer with 5:28 left, and teammate Justin Crosgile grabbed three steals in less than a minute and hit a free throw that gave Eastern the lead for good at 49-46 with 3:31 left.
Idaho State twice cut the lead to one, the last time on Melvin Morgan’s driving layin with 38 seconds left to set up Reuter’s heroics at the end.
“To be on this side of a close win will go a long way for our guys – it was a much-needed win,” said Hayford, whose club broke a four-game losing streak.
“I am really happy our guys can take this win into the break. To think of the alternative, that would have been really tough.”
Instead, the Eagles, including six foreigners will celebrate the win and more with an international Christmas at the Hayford house, then serve Christmas Eve dinner at the Salvation Army facility in Spokane. “That will bring us a lot of joy to have that opportunity,” Hayford said.
The Eagles led by as many as 13 points in the first half against ISU’s deliberate offense and zone defense. But the Bengals chipped away before finally pulling ahead 40-39 on a layup by Dejan Kostur with 10:48 left in the game.
The Eagles got 12 points and 13 rebounds – both game-highs – from redshirt freshman forward Venky Jois. Post Martin Seiferth added nine points on 4-for-5 shooting, while Forbes finished with nine points, all on 3-pointers.
Guard Parker Kelly played the entire 40 minutes and scored seven points to go along with three assists.
At one point the Eagles were 3 for 11 from the free-throw line, but made eight of their next nine to finish 11 for 20.
For the game, Eastern was 19 for 50 from the field, while ISU was 22 for 58.