The boys hoops season is well under way, and local teams are getting ready for holiday tournament action.Pictured, Trey Search ad-vances toward the Eagles basket in Columbia’s Nov. 29 game against Freeburg. Click the photo to view and purchase boys basketball photos from this season so far. (Corey Saathoff photo)
C.J. Cruser’s Bulldogs are off to a tough start, with a record of 0-3 on the season, including two 2-point losses.
“Close does not count for us anymore,” Cruser said. “This is my third year here at Waterloo High School. In my opinion we are past ‘close’ ones. We need wins. We are a veteran group this year. We need to figure out a way to win those games.”
But Cruser said even without having yet notched a win, now is not the time to panic.
“The season is not over but it will take some time until our record gets turned around where we think it should be.
“Hopefully the kids will rebound. They know they will get better because we have done that the two previous years. We have had better practices lately. We started out by not practicing as hard as I thought we could have. The kids know our schedule is very difficult at the beginning of the season. We are just looking forward to our next game to get that first ‘W.’”
So far, Cruser is pleased with the play of Zach Schaab.
“He has played as well as I could have ever imagined for the first three games,” he said. “He has done everything for us on the floor. Ryan Aycock has shot the ball extremely well for us and has been a pleasant surprise in leading us in scoring.”
Aycock has 31 points on the season, followed by Schaab with 26 and Shane Lenhardt with 19. On defense. Schaab leads the team with 8 rebounds.
“We still have many of our goals out there to attain,” Cruser said. “We do not go on the road until the (Columbia Freeburg) holiday tourney. We are looking forward to some home cooking. The conference slate is still there to be had. We are looking forward to a better showing in our other two in-season tourneys as well.”
The Bulldogs hosted Freeburg on Tuesday, Mississippi Valley Conference foe Triad on Friday, and Mount Vernon on Dec. 21 before beginning play in the holiday tourney.
The Eagles are 2-2, and head coach Mark Sandstrom is pleased with his young team’s performances so far this season.
“Our effort and activity level has been outstanding,” he said. “We are still attempting to get our young team experience. We are still attempting to work out our rotation as well.”
With losses last week to Madison – St. Louis and Nashville, Sandstrom said the Eagles are looking for positives.
“We were able to play the No. 1 ranked team in Missouri and Illinois in the same week,” he said. “It was a great learning week for us because a lot of our kids haven’t experienced those types of teams and talent. We have the philosophy of improving and getting better each day in practice and each game.”
Following the consistent play of Korbin Farmer, who leads the team with 51 points, are Trey Search with 37 and Foster Gundlach with 27.
“(Farmer) is definitely our most improved player,” Sandstrom said. “He is probably the best rebounder I have coached. Gundlach is a sophomore and has shot it well from the 3-point line. We hope that continues. Trey Search has done a nice job of attacking the rim and being a leader.”
The defensive numbers of Farmer are impressive as well, as he tops the rebound tally with 46.
Big center Cole Foster has missed the last two games with an injury, and Sandstrom looks forward to his return in time to begin Cahokia Conference play Friday against Wesclin.
“Every game is a big game for us due to our youth and inexperience,” Sandstrom said. “We look forward to getting into the conference schedule.”
The Eagles travel to Wesclin Friday and Metro-East Lutheran Dec. 17, before hosting Freeburg Dec. 20 then opening play in the Columbia-Freeburg Holiday Tournament Dec. 26 through Dec. 30, at home. They resume play after the holidays with another conference game, Jan. 3, in Red Bud.
The Hawks are sitting pretty with a 5-0 record and a championship in the Metro-East Lutheran Tournament.
“We just want to get better every day and we want to play as good basketball as we can and have fun with it,” said head coach Dennis Rueter.
Rueter’s main men, seniors Wes Degener and Nick Row, are proving to be just that. Degener and Row are tied for the team lead with 65 points each, along with Mitch Meyer with 46 and Tyler Enright with 41. Row and Degener also lead the Hawks defense, with 34 and 31 rebounds each, respectively.
After their last game, against Pinckneyville, was cancelled due to the weather, the Hawks will host Metro-East Lutheran on Dec. 13, Nashville on Dec. 14 and Marissa on Dec. 20 before traveling to Pinckneyville to play in their Christmas tournament. They will resume post-holiday play Jan. 4, at Civic Memorial.
The Pirates are sitting at 1-5, their sole win coming against Mount Olive in the Metro-East Lutheran Tournament. They resumed play, after a break due to the weather, Tuesday in Lebanon.
Leading scorers for the Pirates are Zac Williams with 66 points, Ryan Unterseh with 53, Eric Smith with 43 and Griffin Seidler with 42. On defense, Seidler leads the team with 8 rebounds, along with Jared Berning and Matt Hemenway with 6 each.
The Pirates will play Cahokia Conference foe New Athens on Friday, host Dupo Dec. 20, and will play in the Columbia-Freeburg Holiday Tournament after Christmas.