It has seemed at times that Waterloo’s roster has been its greatest opponent.
At the beginning of the season the Bulldog boys basketball team lost two seniors. Then a few weeks ago they lost influential junior forward Shane Lenhardt to a re-injured knee. Lenhardt will have surgery later this month and is out for the season, according to Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser.
To add to it, last Monday Waterloo lost their fourth player of the season when senior guard Jared Lengacher suffered a collapsed lung after battling an upper respiratory infection for several weeks. Cruser says Lengacher is feeling better, but is out indefinitely out hopes he could be back for senior night or the postseason.
The injury plagued Bulldogs (14-10) traveled to face conference leader Highland (16-12) with a few men down Friday, causing the underclassmen to step it up, much like they’ve had to do all season.
“The future looks bright,” Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser said in regards to his underclassmen. But at the same time he admits it’s “hard to go into big road games and win with young kids.”
Waterloo almost did just that against the “other” Bulldogs, who have defeated WHS in their last seven meetings, falling in a close one this time, 57-54.
“We pulled out a lot of stops this week to (try to) beat them,” Cruser explained. “We had them beat in the first 28 minutes of the game.”
Waterloo was leading at the half, 29-23. But the persistent issue of foul trouble plagued their roster once more with Justin Kretchmer out for most of the first half with two fouls.
Kretchmer still managed to put up 22 points on the night, nonetheless. Cruser said he was pleased with the offense. Rick Wiegand charted 13 points on the night, while Daniel Gardner and Zach Schaab each had seven.
But it was the offense from Highland’s Mitch Carriger that was much of the difference in the game. Carriger sunk 29 points alone on WHS.
Although the WHS Bulldogs had few turnovers the entire game, Cruser said, it was a key miscue and two fouls in the final seconds, along with a couple momentum-swinging three pointers, that caused the game to go Highland’s way in the end.
With the win, Highland is up 7-1 in the conference.
“They sewed it up,” Cruser explained in disappointment. “We are going to struggle to keep our head above water in the conference from here on out.”
Waterloo is now tied with Jerseyville for second with a conference record of 4-3. The only way the Bulldogs could win their first Mississippi Valley Conference title since 1981 is to win each of their final three games of the regular season and hope for Highland to lose a few in the final stretch.
Waterloo plays on the road against Mascoutah Friday and Jerseyville Tuesday. The Bulldogs return home next Friday for their final game of the season and senior night against Civic Memorial.