The action is always intense when rivals Columbia and Waterloo meet in any sport. Wednesday’s meeting of girls basketball teams was no different.
Both were battling to reach Saturday’s final of the Candy Cane Classic at Gibault. It was a rematch of last year’s championship game, which the Eagles won. Columbia was also seeking revenge against Waterloo after the Bulldogs had bounced them from the regionals in overtime last season.
In another OT thriller, the Bulldogs prevailed on Wednesday night, 55-51. Taylor Augustine came up big for Waterloo, scoring a game-high 20 points on the strength of 14-for-18 shooting from the free-throw line.
“She made some key free-throws in overtime to help ice the game for us,” Waterloo head coach Matt Lucash said of Augustine. “Ultimately, her ball-handling and ability to not turn the ball over in some key moments got us out of that game with a W.”
Columbia came out strong in the tightly contested matchup, pulling out to a 15-9 lead after one quarter. Claire Foster scored 11 points in the opening frame for the Eagles, including two straight three-pointers to end the quarter.
But the Bulldogs defense contained Foster after that, limiting her to 15 total points for the game.
“Bri Wesselmann played some good defense on Foster when we needed it,” Lucash said. “Foster played a great game and we were able to get some stops on her late.”
Heather Elliott played a strong all-around game for the Bulldogs, hitting key shots in addition to providing solid defense. Her three-pointer put Waterloo up 21-18 in the middle of the second quarter, propelling the ‘Dogs to a 28-25 halftime lead. Following an evenly played third quarter, Elliott’s basket midway through the fourth put Waterloo up 47-42. Elliott finished with 11 points on the night.
With Waterloo clinging to a 47-45 lead in the game’s waning minutes of regulation, Kathryn Finnerty was called for an offensive foul, which was her fifth. That was compacted by a technical foul assessed to Lucash after he argued the play. Kalli Farmer made three of four free-throws for the Eagles, and Columbia led 48-47 with possession.
Columbia led 49-47 in the final minute when Augustine nailed two critical free-throws to tie it and send the game into OT.
“With (Finnerty) fouling out in regulation, Destiny Restoff played a great final six minutes for us,” Lucash said. “She was instrumental in us only giving up two points in the overtime.”
Augustine was able to draw more fouls in the extra frame and made some more free throws as the Bulldogs emerged victorious.
“It was an intense game, something we always get from Columbia,” Lucash said. “Ultimately, I think it was our ability to finally match the intensity that they always bring with them to the floor that got us by. We are evenly matched, but they always seem to bring an extra fuel to the fire. We dove for loose balls and played with an intensity that we don’t normally play with against them.”
Finnerty finished with nine points and six rebounds, and Sydney Luedemann added seven points for the Bulldogs, who will play in the championship game on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.