Waterloo hot heading into tourney; Hawks fall to Althoff

Waterloo’s Daniel Gardner goes up for two points Jan. 14 against Columbia. (Alan Dooley photo)

The Waterloo High School boys basketball team is on a roll heading into this week’s Sparta Mid-Winter Tournament, which they won last year.

Waterloo and Columbia faced off last Tuesday night in the annual “Pack the Place” game at WHS. The teams had met earlier this season, with Waterloo coming away with a 29-point win in the Columbia Christmas tournament. The Bulldogs won again this time, beating their cross-county rivals 58-37 in a game that was closer than the score indicated.

Zach Schaab led the ‘Dogs with a game-high 16 points; teammate Shane Lenhardt added 13. Trey Search paced the Eagles with 11 points.

A tight, physical opening quarter set the tone for the game. Schaab made his presence known for the Bulldogs, scoring nine of Waterloo’s 13 first quarter points. The ‘Dogs led 13-11 after one.

Waterloo used stifling defense to extend their lead in the second quarter. The Bulldogs allowed just seven points, four of those coming from the free throw line, to take a 23-18 lead into halftime.

The ‘Dogs came out firing in the second half and started to pull away using hot shooting to expand their lead. That hot shooting carried into the fourth quarter, and Waterloo pulled away for a 21-point victory.

“We played them much closer this time,” Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom said. “We can definitely see the amount of improvement we have made since our blowout loss during the Christmas tournament.”

Bulldogs coach CJ Cruser agreed.

“They played very hard and are improving rapidly,” he said of the Eagles. “We did not do enough things early to get away from Columbia, so they hung around and competed the entire first half.”

Columbia lost again four days later, falling 64-45 to Carlyle, but got back into the win column Monday night in the Litchfield tournament, notching a 62-54 victory over Hillsboro.

Ryan Gudeman was Columbia’s high-point man with 20. Korbin Farmer added 18 points and 13 rebounds, and Drew Huebner contributed 8 points and 7 rebounds in the win.

Columbia played tourney host Litchfield Tuesday night. Results were not known at press time.

“Hopefully, the experience we are gaining in January will help us when we play the majority of our games at home in February,” Sandstrom said.

Waterloo, meanwhile, is on a roll. The ‘Dogs went to Jerseyville on Friday and walked out with a 53-44 conference victory. The Bulldogs are now 8-5 on the season and have won six of their last seven games.

“Shane Lenhardt (15 points) and Zach Schaab (12 points) were very good for us. They played big and we needed it from both of them,” Cruser said following the Jerseyville win. “Rick Wiegand guarded very well for us, as did all the guys. For only scoring one point, I thought Daniel Gardner was extremely good distributing the basketball and keeping us organized all night. He did all the little things for us that go unnoticed in the scorebook.”

Cruser says his guys are hitting their stride in all aspects of the game.

“We have become a balanced team with different guys leading us each night,” he said. “Defensively, we have been pretty good all year, but we are finally starting to score some points and that has eased the burden of having to play so hard every possession on defense to stay in the game.”

Cruser also acknowledged his team’s work ethic as an asset.

“We have done a better job of practicing harder, and that has helped translate into wins on game nights.”

Gibault falls to Althoff

Valmeyer’s Matt Hemenway puts up a basket Saturday against Red Bud. (John Spytek photo)

A capacity crowd packed the stands at Gibault High School on Saturday night to watch two of the best basketball teams in the area face off. The game did not disappoint.

Althoff defeated Gibault, 59-50, in a thrilling game amidst an electric atmosphere. Nick Row scored 21 points to lead the Hawks, who fell to 13-3 on the season.

Althoff jumped out to a quick lead, taking advantage of early shooting woes from the Hawks to go up 12-4. Gibault’s Jared Rueter hit a three-pointer to cut into the lead, but the Crusaders answered with a layup and free throw and finished the first quarter with a 15-8 lead.

Led by Row, the Hawks rallied in the second quarter. The senior scored on consecutive possessions to help Gibault cut into the deficit. Mitch Meyer’s triple made it a one point game midway through the quarter, and Row scored on another layup two minutes later to give the Hawks their first lead. After Althoff quickly answered to retake the lead, Row came up with yet another big shot, drilling a three in the final seconds of the half to give Gibault a 25-23 lead going into the break.

The second half got off to a scintillating start, as both teams heated up from behind the arc. Meyer and Zach Neff hit threes for Gibault, but Althoff quickly answered with three-pointers of their own. The Crusaders scored the last couple buckets of the quarter to take a 40-35 lead into the final frame.

Althoff finally pulled away in the fourth. The Crusaders, aided by their size and rebounding ability, went on a run in the opening minutes and Gibault wasn’t able to recover.

Hawks coach Dennis Rueter thought his team held their own against a much taller and more athletic Althoff squad.

“We knew their length and athleticism would be a challenge, and I thought we did a credible job on the boards,” he said. “I don’t think we played terrible, but we just didn’t play well enough to beat a really good team.”

The loss completed a 1-1 week for Gibault, who crushed St. Pius, 65-43, four days earlier. This week, the Hawks will play in the Nashville tournament. They faced Mascoutah on Tuesday night.

Valmeyer goes 2-1

Valmeyer (4-12) won two of three games last week. First, the Pirates destroyed Collinsville Christian last Tuesday, winning 73-22 behind 15 points from Eric Smith.

Three days later, they won on the road at Steeleville in an overtime thriller, 77-70.

Zach Williams exploded for 27 points for the Pirates against Steeleville, including 13-for-16 shooting from the free throw line. Smith added 14.

Valmeyer finished the week with a heartbreaking home loss to Red Bud on Saturday, falling 57-56. The Pirates were unable to contain Red Bud’s Josh Snyder, who scored 32 points on 12-for-14 shooting from the floor.

(With additional reporting from Corey Saathoff)


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