Waterloo won its first conference title in more than 30 years Tuesday night, but they made it harder for themselves after the Mascoutah Indians upset the ‘Dogs Friday night before a packed house at WHS.
On paper, this should have been a fairly easy win for Waterloo. But that is why they play the games, and Mascoutah (5-20) made things tough on the ‘Dogs all night long.
“Mascoutah has been playing very well. I guess we didn’t trust that enough,” Waterloo head coach C.J. Cruser said. “Going into tonight, they had lost 14 out of 15 with a lot of them close losses.”
Waterloo jumped out to an early lead in the first period, but the Indians responded to take a 12-10.
Waterloo’s Rick Wiegand hit a three-pointer with seven seconds left in the period to put Waterloo up 13-12.
The game would continue to stay tight through the second period and Waterloo would took a one-point lead into the second half, 23-22.
The Bulldogs (17-8, 7-2 in MVC) committed several key turnovers in the third period and the Indians took advantage, putting up 13 points in the period for a 35-31 lead going into the final period.
Waterloo battled back to tie the game at 41 with just 38 seconds to go — only to commit the costliest turnover of the game.
Following a timeout with 14 seconds remaining, a Waterloo inbound pass missed the mark and Mascoutah stole the ball, scored and got fouled for a three-point play. Mascoutah led 44-41 with just 3.8 seconds left.
The ‘Dogs tried a desperation three-pointer from half court that missed the mark, and the Indians took the game.
“We slept-walked through 32 minutes of this game. We had a great week of practice but you wouldn’t know it. There was no energy. It was lethargic and that’s what we said at halftime and it just continued in the second half,” Cruser said after the game. “We were outworked and outhustled by a team whose only motivation was to play spoiler. We just did not play like we wanted the conference at all and have put ourselves in a tough hole having to play Jerseyville.”
Waterloo was led by Zach Schaab with 15 points. Shane Lenhardt chipped in 13.
Waterloo led Jerseyville (16-9, 4-3 in MVC) by one game for the conference title and hosted them Tuesday night. The ‘Dogs pulled out the win, 45-39.
The ‘Dogs defeated Jerseyville earlier this season, 53-44, in Jerseyville.
Waterloo closes its regular season with a road conference game Friday night at Civic Memorial before entering regional play next week.
Gibault goes 1-1
The Gibault Hawks closed out their regular season last week with two home games.
The first was a high-profile matchup with Alton Marquette. The Hawks had a chance to get a big win against one of the best teams in the area, but fell in heartbreaking fashion, 39-38.
It was a low-scoring affair from the beginning. The Explorers led 8-4 after the first quarter.
Playing without Wes Degener, who was sidelined with a back injury, Gibault picked up the pace in the second quarter, using Nick Row’s hot shooting to take a 23-17 lead into the break.
Slowly but surely, Alton Marquette climbed back into the game behind the sizzling play of Deion Lavender, who already has several NCAA Division I college offers. Lavender scored basket after basket en route to a 29-point night, scoring all but 10 of his team’s points.
Lavender’s biggest shots came from the free throw line, as he calmly sunk two free throws to put his team ahead by one with 15 seconds remaining in the game.
Gibault had a final chance to win it at the end, but missed. Row finished with 17 points in the loss. Freshman Trevor Davis added 10.
A disappointed coach Dennis Rueter couldn’t fault his team much for the loss, acknowledging Lavender as one of the best players his squad has faced all season.
“He’s a Division I caliber player and he proved it against us,” Rueter said. “We didn’t make too many mistakes and we probably deserved to win, but it doesn’t always work out like that. It was a good effort against a good team, and that’s all we can really ask.”
Two nights later, the Hawks bounced back with a 65-49 home victory over Lovejoy on senior night.
Degener returned from injury and exploded for 28 points, while classmates Mitch Meyer and Row added 15 and 14, respectably. Gibault got off to a slow start, but then rolled the rest of the way.
The win not only closed the season on a high note, but was also a nice send-off for the senior class. Degener, Meyer, Row, Zach Neff, Tyler Enright, Ricky Schmersahl and coach Rueter’s son Jared were all recognized prior to the game.
This group is part of an elite athletic class — one that has already won state championships in baseball and soccer. It’s something that doesn’t surprise Rueter given their intensity and work ethic.
“Three and-a-half years ago when they got here, I remember how hard these kids played, and they still play hard today,” Rueter praised. “They are an unbelievably competitive class.”
The senior-laden Hawks began their playoff journey with a regional match-up against Marissa on Tuesday night in Lebanon.
Rueter says that the key to a playoff run is being mentally prepared every night — something that can be a challenge given the quick turnaround between games.
“You don’t have too much time to prepare in advance,” he said. “You don’t really know who you’re going to play until the day before and so you have to get ready quickly.”
Other local action
Columbia (7-19) lost its seventh game in a row, 53-28, Friday at Freeburg. Cole Foster led the way for the Eagles with 19 points.
Columbia hosts Triad this Friday for senior night.
Valmeyer (8-16) closed out its regular season with a win and a loss last week. On Friday, the Pirates topped Marissa on the road, 57-41. The win was highlighted by a half-court shot at the end of the first quarter by Ryan Unterseh, who led Valmeyer with 15 points.
Unterseh continued his hot shooting at home Saturday night, but the Pirates lost to Wood River, 70-55. Unterseh scored 21 points in defeat.
Valmeyer played New Athens Tuesday night in the Lebanon regional.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Kovarik