As far as Waterloo is concerned, Feb. 8 was their first boys basketball game of the season.
“We kind of looked at it as a four-game season after the Highland game,” Waterloo boys basketball coach C.J. Cruser explained. “All we can do is win the games here in front of us.”
They have essentially had to play with a whole new lineup since then, as well.
The long line of those out due to injury and sickness got longer Friday against Mascoutah, with junior guard Zach Schaab out of the starting lineup after being sick for five days prior. Cruser started junior varsity players Ryan Aycock and Johnny Albers.
This was Aycock’s first start of the season on varsity, which did not allow him to play JV that night. As a result, the JV team lost its first conference game this season. If they win out, they will take first in the Mississippi Valley Conference.
Nonetheless, with Waterloo’s youth in the lineup, the Bulldogs (15-10, 5-3 in the MVC) pulled out a convincing conference win Friday over Mascoutah (9-15, 3-6), 41-24.
“I was actually surprised, we’ve been so thin lately,” Cruser said. “I just thought the last three games were going to be bare with guys hurt and playing all the young kids.”
Aside from Aycock’s good first start as a sophomore and junior Johnny Albers eight points and three three-pointers in the third quarter, another junior stepped up in Reid Hoffman, who had five points on the night.
“(Reid) and Johnny did a good job on the glass, better than I could have expected,” Cruser explained, adding that everyone on the team hit the boards against Mascoutah and did their part.
Also stepping up was senior forward Justin Kretchmer with 19 points against the Indians.
“We had an outstanding third quarter,” Cruser said of his team’s 21-point lead going into the fourth quarter. “We executed well, Kretchmer played very well. He was nine-of-10 from the field, so we did a good job finding him.”
“He’s been playing better and it’s been huge for us.”
Also huge for Waterloo are the team’s final two games. They faced Jerseyville Tuesday. Results were not available by press time but can be found on RepublicTimes.net/sports.
Going into Tuesday’s road game, both Jerseyville and Waterloo were tied for second in the conference, with the Panthers knocking off MVC leader Highland (16-13, 7-2) Friday.
“We still have an outside chance at the conference, and so does Jerseyville,” Cruser explained. “Jerseyville thinks they are the best team in the conference. So they think if they win and Highland loses their last two they can get a piece of the crown. Well, we are thinking the same thing too.”
Both Jerseyville and Waterloo’s rosters are loaded with underclassmen.
“We’re a different team than they saw last.”
Waterloo will then face Civic Memorial for senior night Friday.
In more Bulldog basketball news, Waterloo took on Jerseyville on the road Tuesday night. The results were not available by press time, but the Bulldogs defeated the Panthers, 49-46. This week’s paper explains the conference standings and the importance of the Jerseyville win.