The Edwardsville Tigers made certain coach Mike Waldo collected his 700th basketball win Tuesday with a dominant 73-52 victory over De Smet.
Edwardsville (21-1), ranked 25th in the latest USA Super 25 national rankings and second in the Class 4A state poll, got 20 points each from Mark Smith and A.J. Epenesa and 16 from Oliver Stephen to keep the celebration on track.
“To have someone like Coach Waldo, it’s an honor for all of us,” Epenesa said of Waldo, whose career record of 700-256 includes a 619-205 mark at Edwardsville since 1987. “We all know that he’s a legendary coach here in Edwardsville, anywhere he coaches.
“No one outworks him because I guarantee he’s going to stay awake tonight watching the film, and he’s going to stay here all night evaluating (next opponent) Granite City’s film.”
In typical Waldo form, he quickly recalled the scene of his first victory as a new head coach at Marquette High School in Alton, back in 1983. The Explorers lost their first two games that season before finding the win column.
“St. Henry Prep, Belleville, December, 1983,” Waldo said. “I’m just thankful to get to coach the kids. I like sports, and I like the kids, and we’ve had some really good guys — and they’re guys that have won a lot of games. They’ve worked hard, they’ve paid the price and it makes me think of that.”
Waldo is only the third metro-east coach in Illinois history to reach 700 career wins. The others are former Collinsville coach Vergil Fletcher (792) and former Okawville coach Dave Luechtefeld (738). Gibault High coach Dennis Rueter won his 699th game Tuesday as the Hawks beat Waterloo.
Edwardsville came flying at the Spartans (9-12) right from the start, outscoring them 28-11 in the first quarter while hitting 10 of its first 14 shots. Epenesa and Smith each had 16 of their 20 points at halftime.
Waldo pulled the starters after the third quarter when the lead stood at 69-40. By that time the Tigers had hit 24 of their 34 shots (70.5 percent).
“How we came out tonight is how we should come out every game,” Epenesa said. “We’ve had a couple series where we’ve been pretty close at the beginning of a game, and we can’t do that.”
De Smet got nine points from Ryan Stipanovich.
After the game, Waldo was congratulated by the entire Edwardsville High student sectional and numerous other fans and friends who made sure to be there on his special night.
“I haven’t played basketball since 1979, so I haven’t won any (games),” he said. “I’m happy to have been able to have done it this long.”