The Waterloo High School boys basketball season came to an end last Wednesday night at the hands of a good Althoff team in the Class 3A Althoff Regional.
The Bulldogs (17-10) took host team Althoff (17-6) down to the wire, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
Waterloo jumped out to an early 11-9 lead in the first period, but the Crusaders kept the game close and the two teams were tied at halftime, 19-19.
Althoff came out and defended the ‘Dogs very well in the third period, holding them to just six points while opening up a slim three-point lead heading into the final period.
The Crusaders opened the lead up to nine with 5:47 to go in the game. But Waterloo did not go away easy, getting some big buckets from Shane Lenhardt and Zach Schaab to battle their way back into the game. Althoff pulled it out in the end, however, 44-37.
“The regional game was a very well-played game on our part,” Waterloo head coach CJ Cruser said. “I thought we guarded them extremely well and we did about as good as I could hope for on the glass. We forced them to play our game and that is a credit to our kids.”
Cruser said his team had a chance to win in the fourth quarter, and that is really all a coach can ask for.
“I think all of our kids played extremely physical and stood up to the test against a team that has played a lot of heavyweights to the wire all year long,” Cruser said. “We handled the pressure the whole game except for one big spell where they got after us and we turned it over. I thought everyone that played contributed key plays in the game.”
Despite the regional loss, it was a very positive year for the Bulldogs.
“It has been a really successful year,” Cruser said. “We have a second place finish at the Columbia Holiday Tournament and back-to-back at the Sparta tourney to be proud of. We had a 10-game win streak, which has been the longest in coach Hopper’s 28 years. We also had three winning seasons in a row for the first time since the Henson era in the 1970s. We got the coveted conference championship for the first time in 33 years and first ever Mississippi Valley Conference crown.”
All this after starting the season 0-3, 2-4 and 4-5, Cruser added.
“Finishing 17-10 was terrific,” he said. “The kids realize the accomplishments.”
As for next season, the Bulldogs will have to replace three starters — two of them three-year starters — plus two good bench players “who were the best teammates a team could ask for,” Cruser said.
The junior varsity team finished the year on a 10-game winning streak, so Cruser is hoping they can step up next season.
“It will be extremely difficult to replace the seniors and duplicate this success,” Cruser said. “We have players who are starting to believe they are good enough to compete in this league and I feel that was a huge hurdle when I took the job. Moving forward, every team has wanted to better the previous team. All have been successful. Next year’s group will have the same mindset going forward.”