The red-hot Waterloo Bulldogs took part in the Sparta Mid-Winter Classic last week, looking to extend their winning streak and win the event for the second straight year. Mission accomplished.
“We discussed the importance of defending our championship,” Waterloo coach CJ Cruser said. “We have been there before, and these kids know how to win there.”
The ‘Dogs started their title defense with a 68-49 victory over Dupo. Zach Schaab scored 21 points and Shane Lenhardt added 18, as the Bulldogs used a huge second quarter to put the game away by halftime.
The next night, Waterloo used its trademark stifling defense to obliterate Red Bud, 50-16. The Bulldogs did not allow more than 6 points in any quarter, and were led offensively by Lenhardt (15 points) and Daniel Gardner (14 points).
Friday night, the ‘Dogs faced host team Sparta in the semifinals. Led once again by Lenhardt (15 points) and Gardner (12), Waterloo won again to advance to the championship game. Schaab, Rick Wiegand, and Reid Hoffman added nine points apiece in a balanced scoring attack for the Bulldogs.
Saturday’s championship game pitted the ‘Dogs against the Red Devils of Murphysboro. Waterloo got off to a strong start, jumping out to a 15-6 first quarter lead. Murphysboro cut into the deficit in the second, but the Bulldogs held a 28-21 advantage at the half.
Murphysboro continued its comeback attempt, making it a four-point game at the end of the third quarter, but the ‘Dogs and Devils played even in the final frame. Waterloo held on, 58-54, to win the tourney title for the second consecutive year.Gibault’s Nick Row attempts a shot against Althoff.
(Kermit Constantine photo)
Bulldogs coach CJ Cruser was thrilled with his team’s play.
“We had tons of success in the post,” he said. “We shot it well when we had to. We were zoned in every game and we made enough shots to get every team to dispose their zone for man-to-man.”
Lenhardt and Schaab were the stars of the tournament for the Bulldogs, and both were named to the All-Tournament team. Cruser had nothing but praise for his two standouts.
“Shane was a horse in the final,” he said. “He carried us big time.
“Zach was great all week with his scoring, rebounding, defense and intensity level. He was a coach on the floor for us.”
Additionally, Gardner was a second-teamer who, along with Wiegand, Hoffman and Jonny Albers, were able to knock down some big-time shots over the course of the week.
Cruser hopes the tourney win is a step in the right direction for Waterloo basketball.
“We just want to be a more consistent program that can be a winning program year in and year out,” he said.
Currently riding an eight-game winning streak, the ‘Dogs (12-5) return home to host Civic Memorial on Friday night.
Hawks third in NIT
Gibault meanwhile, played in the annual Nashville Invitational Tournament. The Hawks, seeded as the top team in the tourney, were looking to win the annual event for the first time in more than 20 years.
In the opening game, Gibault downed Mascoutah, 63-54. Nick Row, who has been on fire for the Hawks lately, led the way with 16 points, going a perfect 12-for-12 from the free throw line.
Wes Degener (13 points), Mitch Meyer (11) and Tyler Enright (10) were also double-digit scorers as the Hawks cruised to a 9-point victory.
In Friday’s semifinal, Gibault took on Breese Central, falling 43-36 in a defensive battle. The Hawks were playing from behind almost the entire night, and trailed 9-3 after one.
Degener, who led Gibault with 13 points, helped to cut the deficit to one going into the half. The Hawks briefly took the lead early in the second half, but Central answered with a run of its own. Three-point shooting from Tyler Enright and Jacob Rueter helped keep it close, but the Cougars hit their free throws and pulled away for the win.
The loss sent Gibault to the third place game, where they took on Teutopolis. After getting off to a cold start the previous night, the Hawks took the lead early and refused to relinquish it, though the game was close throughout.
Gibault jumped out to a 14-10 lead after one and led 25-23 at halftime. The Wooden Shoes tied things up at the end of the third quarter, but the Hawks bounced right back in the fourth, winning 51-45.
Degener scored a game-high 15 points and Row added 12. Both were named to the All-Tournament team.
For coach Dennis Rueter, the victory over Teutopolis was a good bounce-back win.
“We didn’t play as well as we could have Friday night,” he said. “We had some tentative shooting and that hurt us. But we played much better on Saturday. We played an efficient half-court game and we closed the game out well.”
Overall, Rueter liked what he saw from his team. Jacob and Jared Rueter hit key shots, Meyer made some nice passes, and freshman Trevor Davis played important minutes filling in for Zach Neff.
“Everyone contributed in some way throughout the week,” Rueter said. “Overall, we got to play in three competitive games.”
Going forward, the coach hopes the return of Brian Deterding will help. Deterding, who has not played this season due to injury, is Gibault’s tallest player at 6-foot-4.
The Hawks travel to Triad on Feb. 4.
Columbia in Litchfield
Columbia played in the Litchfield Tournament. The Eagles won their opening game, 62-54, over Hillsboro behind 20 points from Ryan Gudeman and 18 from Korbin Farmer.
In the next round, Columbia faced host Litchfield. Despite 16 from Gudeman, the Eagles lost, 63-53, falling victim to a 27-point fourth quarter outburst from the Purple Panthers.
On Friday night, coach Mark Sandstrom’s squad took on Nokomis. The Eagles jumped out to an 11-4 lead after the first quarter, but Nokomis battled back to win.
Columbia played Mount Zion in Saturday’s third place game. The Eagles fell behind quickly in the first quarter and were never able to fully recover. Mount Zion put the game away in the fourth quarter.
Sandstrom had both criticism and praise for his team’s tournament performance.
“Our play was very inconsistent,” he said. “We played really well against an improved Hillsboro team and knocked them off but then weren’t ready to play out of the gate against Litchfield. Same way over the weekend. We are looking for consistency and a sense of urgency every game.”
Farmer was named to the All-Tournament and “had a tremendous effort,” according to Sandstrom.
After hosting Red Bud on Tuesday, the Eagles take road trips to Wesclin and Okawville on Wednesday and Saturday.
Valmeyer was the only team not taking part in a tournament last week.
The Pirates won their only game of the week, 59-50, over Valley Park.
Ryan Unterseh scored 18 and Zach Williams added 17 to pace Valmeyer, who improved to 5-12 on the season.