COLUMBIA — A zone defense is like a tuxedo for Columbia High basketball coach Mark Sandstrom.He only breaks it out for special occasions.
Tuesday was one of them as the Eagles shackled Waterloo all night with an effective zone defense that helped deliver a 46-40 victory.
"To be honest with you, we played zone for about the first time in three years tonight and I think we kind of threw them for a loop a little bit," said Sandstrom, whose team lost 33-28 to Waterloo on Dec. 26 at the Freeburg-Columbia Holiday Tournament. "I thought they were uncomfortable with it and that's a credit to our kids being active and doing what they were supposed to do.
Columbia (9-6) was coming off back-to-back Cahokia Conference losses to Freeburg and Central, but their longtime Monroe County rivals provided some inspiration on Tuesday.
Waterloo (9-6) had won five of its previous six games, but never could locate enough offense.
Columbia limited the Bulldogs to a 16-for-50 shooting night (32 percent) that included a string of 10 consecutive misses during a particularly cold second quarter.
The Eagles got 11 points from Adam Babb and 10 from Jacob Wessel. Michael Hunsaker contributed eight.
"Columbia came out with a tremendous amount of energy to start the game and we didn't really match it," Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser said. "It looked like we played hard, but they took it to a different notch and we didn't respond. We just ran out of time, ran out of bodies and ran out of energy.
"We struggled against their defense tonight. We didn't loosen them up and they stayed the way they were."
Helping add a bit of gasoline to the Eagles' motivational fire were off-balance shots by Hunsaker and Babb that fell at the end of the first two quarters.
Hunsaker's gave Columbia an 11-9 lead after the first quarter and Babb drained a running 3-pointer at the end of the first half to make it 28-16.
"There's five points right there and it was a four-point game when we fouled them at the end," Cruser said. "Every little basket does make a difference."
Trailing by 12 early in the second half, Waterloo kept hammering away at the Eagles' lead. The Bulldogs actually outscored the Eagles 24-18 in the second half, but Columbia's big damage was done in the first two quarters.
Two straight buckets by Kretchmer brought Waterloo to within 44-40 with 47 seconds remaining. Two missed free throws and two of Columbia's 21 turnovers helped create another opportunity for Waterloo, but Ryan Aycock missed a 3-pointer and the Eagles held on.
Waterloo missed its first 10 shots of the second quarter with Jared Lengacher finally ending the shooting drought with 1 minute, 37 seconds remaining in the half.
Columbia's 28 points in the first half matched its entire scoring total from the previous Waterloo game.
Sandstrom went to the zone to limit Waterloo's effective inside tandem of Shane Lenhardt and Justin Kretchmer. Lenhardt scored nine of his 15 points in the first quarter, but Kretchmer managed only six.
"It's pretty tough because I'm a man-to-man (defense) guy," Sandstrom said. "Everybody knows I'm a man-to-man guy and we do 45 minutes of it every day in practice. I just didn't think we could beat them man-to-man wise."
Columbia 49, Waterloo 48
While it was much closer than Columbia's 41-26 victory on Dec. 12, Waterloo dropped is second straight game to the Eagles this season.
Columbia (15-4), which rode a 20-point effort by Savannah Wittenbrink, held off a late charge by the Bulldogs (6-8) as a shot by Waterloo's Hope Elliott was off the mark just ahead of the buzzer.
Elliott led Waterloo with 17 points and scored nine of those in the final quarter to lead the charge. Katie Barton added 12 points for Columbia.
Granite City 53, O'Fallon 40
Granite City's Natalie O'Keefe continued her impressive seaon with a triple-double that included 15 points, 18 rebounds and 11 blocked shots in a Southwestern Conference victory over O'Fallon.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.