Waterloo cruised through the 49th Annual Sparta Midwinter Classic last week, defeating Red Bud, DuQuoin and Murphysboro on their way to the finals against Steeleville on Saturday.
But the Bulldogs were aware they couldn’t cruise past Steeleville (12-7), like they had done for most of the tournament.
“We knew (Darin) Winkelman (12 points, seven rebounds) was going to be a tough match up for us,” Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser said. “Outstanding player, averages 20 plus a game and the (A.J.) Jeffers kid (14 points, seven rebounds) we knew could probably get us in trouble.”
“They shoot the ball very well and they go to the glass very well.”
But surprisingly in the first half of the game it was Waterloo, who has been struggling from the arch, shooting the ball well.
“It was nice for us to make some big shots, long over due,” Cruser said. “We knew we were going to get zoned and we got manned too. I was pleased with what we were able to do out of the man.”
Waterloo’s Rick Wiegand put up 15 points on the night, filling the void when Justin Kretchmer was out with four fouls right off the bat in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs were up by more than 10 points at a few moments in the game, but it came down to the wire at the end with Steeleville making it a one point game with five minutes left to go.
“Rick kept us in the game by getting to the basket and getting to the line,” explained Cruser. “He was really our offensive spark in the third quarter and got us to the fourth where we could bring Kretchmer back in.”Waterloo’s Rick Wiegand goes up for a layup against Steeleville’s Reid Wilson in Saturday’s championship game. Wiegand led the Bulldogs with 15 points.
Aside from Kretchmer being out due to foul trouble, Shane Lenhardt, who put up 27 points for his team in the first two games of the tournament, was a notable absence in the paint as well.
Lenhardt missed the semifinal and final games due to a tweaked knee, reportedly the same knee he injured last spring. Lenhardt was expected to learn his status this week.
With Cruser having to make lineup adjustments nearly every game, he says it’s key for his underclassmen to step-up off the bench.
“Not sure on Lenhardt’s status. He may be lost for the year, I don’t know,” Cruser said. “But those guys are growing and developing every day. That bodes well for next year, because we are going to have those guys in the rotation a lot and playing even more minutes than they are now.”
Despite Lenhardt’s injury, him and Kretchmer both made first team All-Tournament.
Both Kretchmer and Albers had eight points in the championship for the Bulldogs, while Steeleville’s Steven Uchtman led his team with 15 points.
Waterloo will visit Civic Memorial Friday.