WATERLOO — The balanced attack of the Columbia Eagles proved more than Waterloo could handle Wednesday in the semifinals of the 16th annual Gibault Candy Cane Classic.
With leading scorer Savannah Wittenbrink in foul trouble and held scoreless in the first half, senior Katie Barton was one of three players who picked up the slack as Columbia breezed into the title game with a 41-26 win over the Bulldogs.
Columbia (8-3) trailed 5-4 after a first quarter which featured more turnovers (11) than points.
But when Eagles coach Scott Germain turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter, the Bulldogs had no answer.
Barton, Erika Varel and Taryn Pena all scored five points in the period, which saw Waterloo commit seven turnovers and the Eagles take a 27-12 lead into halftime.
"We didn't have it (the pressure) on all the time, but when we did, we were able to force some turnovers and get some good looks at the basket,'' Germain said.
"We didn't shoot the ball that well, but we were able to have players come off the bench and do a good job for us.''
The win moves Columbia into the title game at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Eagles will play the winner of a semifinal between Red Bud and Cahokia, which will be played at 6 p.m. on Thursday. Waterloo (3-6) will take on the loser of that game at noon Saturday in the battle for third place.
Both teams struggled in the first quarter.
Columbia didn't score for the first six minutes and tallied its first basket with 13 seconds left on a short jumper by Megan Biscan.
But the Bulldogs couldn't take advantage and led just 5-4.
"We've been very inconsistent with our shooting all year. The other night against Gibault, I think we shot like 47 percent. But we've had other nights where we've been in the 20s,'' Bulldogs coach Matt Lucash said. "I don't know what we were tonight, it had to be under 30 percent.''
The Bulldogs weren't very good against the Eagles' pressure either, especially in the decisive second quarter.
Columbia junior Olivia Brower began the Eagles' surge with a short jumper and when Barton, Erika Varel and Pena all scored following Waterloo turnovers, the Eagles were up 13-7 with 6:46 left in the first half.
Pena and Varel then scored again on short jumpers, and when Calli Germain got loose for a basket inside the lane, Columbia had gone on a 15-2 run to take a 19-7 lead with three minutes still left in the second quarter.
"We've also been inconsistent against pressure,'' Lucash said. "When we try to rush things is when we get into trouble. When we take our time we can get good shots.
"I bet we missed five shots within a couple of feet tonight as well. We just didn't shoot the basketball very well tonight.''
Germain and Wittenbrink tallied hoops early in the second half as the Eagles lead grew to 36-14.
Barton, Pena and Varel scored seven points apiece to lead the Eagles, while Wittenbrink added six.
Six players totaled four or more points for Columbia.
Waterloo's Hope Elliott led all scorers with 10 points.