After watching his team sink only eight of 19 free throws in the fourth quarter Monday and 15-of-32 overall, Mascoutah Indians coach Cody Reynolds knew what his team would be doing the following day.
Practicing free throws. Lots of them.
Fortunately for the Indians, they still are able to practice after watching several huge leads disappear and then holding off Waterloo at the end for a 42-37 victory at the Class 3A Mascoutah Regional.
“Yes, we’re going to be shooting a lot of free throws tomorrow,” said Reynolds, whose 11-19 squad will take on top-seeded Althoff (22-3) in a 6 p.m. regional semifinal game Wednesday. “It’s a physical game when you play them, it takes a toll on your legs and can take a toll on your shooting, but we’ll be getting a lot of free throws in tomorrow. That’s for sure.”
Mascoutah got 14 points from senior Tim Parks and 12 from senior Thomas Trumbull while Waterloo senior Rick Wiegand led all scorers with 17.
“We didn’t do a very good job tonight of knocking down our free throws, but we stuck in there,” Parks said. “A win’s a win at this point in the season, so that’s good.”
Mascoutah, which led 10-0 after the first quarter and 34-19 after three quarters, watched the scrappy Bulldogs (13-16) slice and dice their way through a lead that at one point had reached 17 points.
A pair of Mississippi Valley Conference rivals playing for the third time this season after splitting the first two games did nothing to lessen the intensity and physical play.
Waterloo senior Rick Wiegand, who led the Bulldogs with 17 points, cut the Mascoutah lead to 37-35 with 2:15 remaining. Just when it seemed like all the momentum had swung to Waterloo —thanks in part to the Indians missing seven of the first 10 foul shots in the fourth quarter — Parks hit a free throw and the pressure seemed to dissipate a bit.
“It would have been easy for us to really fold there at the end and let them come all the way back, but we barely got our composure back,” Reynolds said. “We were able to get a couple stops there at the end. We were able to get just enough free throws, just enough stops and rebounds there at the end to finish it off.”
Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser appreciated his team’s near-miracle comeback, noting that despite everything else that happened the Bulldogs had the ball with a chance to tie at one point before a layup rolled off the rim. But Cruser knew the biggest reason for the loss occurred during the first half with the 9-0 deficit after one quarter and 24-11 after two.
Mascoutah took advantage of a late Waterloo turnover with less than two seconds remaining in the first half and Trumbull hit a 3-pointer right in front of the Bulldogs’ bench.
“That’s not the first time we’ve had a donut in a quarter — and it’ll cost you,” Cruser said. “It’s hard to win a game when you put up a donut in the first quarter. Some teams can recover from it, but we just couldn’t. We just got outmatched in the first half.
“They took it to us. They punched us, they knocked us down and we didn’t get back up until the fourth quarter.”
Just before the foul-line trouble was about to reach epic proportions, Parks sank one with 50 seconds remaining to push the lead back to four.
“It’s one of those things for shooters, just seeing the ball go in and being able to breathe a little bit,” Reynolds said. “Obviously with each miss you start to get a little more tight, whether you’re the guy shooting them or the guy watching. To finally get one go in there, you could just feel everybody on the bench breathe a sigh of relief.
“That kind of calmed us down a little bit.”
Waterloo was fortunate to be down only 9-0 after the first quarter with Mascoutah hitting just two of its first 10 shots. The Bulldogs were struggling right there with them at 0-for-8 in the first quarter and 4-for-16 in the first half.
Wiegand had 12 of his 17 points in the second and third quarter to keep Waterloo within range. The Bulldogs trailed by 15 heading to the fourth quarter and had two starters foul out, but refused to go away quietly.
A shot by Max Schrader cut the lead to 37-33 and another by Wiegand made it 37-35, but the Bulldogs got no closer than three the rest of the way.
“We got it to one possession with the ball, you can’t ask for much more than that,” Cruser said. “We had a nice play, had a layup, it just didn’t fall. It’s just the way it went.”
Columbia 65, Freeburg 42: Facing Freeburg in the first round of the playoffs for the third straight year, Columbia used a season-high 28-point third quarter to blow open a close game and reach the semifinals.
Freeburg (12-17) led 24-22 at halftime, only to watch Columbia (18-10) fly away on an 11-run. The Eagles, who beat the Midgets 68-39 on Feb. 20 but lost to them 66-62 earlier, pushed their lead to 50-31 by outscoring the Midgets 28-7 in the third quarter.
Jonathan Holmes led four Columbia players in double figures with 17 points, followed by Drew Huebner with 13, Korbin Farmer with 12 and Jordan Holmes with 10. Freeburg got 13 points each from D.J. Valleroy and Zach Diecker but the Midgets could not withstand Columbia's pressure at the offensive or defensive end throughout the first half.