There were obviously defenders in his path Monday, but Waterloo senior Ben Huels kept finding ways to avoid them.
Huels did the driving and scored 22 points to help Waterloo cross the finish line with a 58-42 victory over Freeburg at the Class 3A Columbia Regional.
“Ben does a really good job of getting to the hoop,” Waterloo coach Dane Walter said. “Part of his success of late is he’s being very smart with the basketball. He’s taking his opportunities and he’s dishing as well. It’s really improved his game.”
Waterloo (8-21) had lost 11 straight games before beating Civic Memorial on Friday in its final regular-season contest.
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Ben does a really good job of getting to the hoop. Part of his success of late is he’s being very smart with the basketball. He’s taking his opportunities and he’s dishing as well. It’s really improved his game.
Waterloo coach Dane Walter on Ben Huels
“At the end of the season it’s all about the first game,” Huels said. “It’s a new season, every team’s 0-0 and it’s good to pick up a first win.”
Monday’s win gave the Bulldogs a two-game winning streak for only the second time all season and sent them into the semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Monroe County rival and No. 2 seed Columbia (20-6).
Waterloo lost to Columbia 66-47 and 71-54 this season and the Bulldogs will be underdogs once again.
“For us, we’ve got nothing to lose,” Walter said. “They beat us twice already, they’re the two-seed and we’re the 10. I’m happy with how things have been going and I’m thinking it’s going to be a better ballgame tomorrow than what people expect.”
Waterloo’s Griffin Lenhardt scored eight of his 12 points during the second quarter and Dylan Hunt finished with nine.
But Freeburg was hurt the most when Huels carved up the defense by taking the ball to the rim.
“We knew he could play and it wasn’t in the scouting report to let him just drive and get layups,” said Freeburg coach Matt Laur, whose team finished 9-20 and hadn’t played since a loss to Columbia 10 days earlier. “I just felt like we came out a little bit flat and just never could quite find that energy or that edge.
“Give Waterloo credit, they played a good game and when we would make a run, they typically came back with an answer for us.”
Freeburg, which hit just four of 22 shots in the first half while missing numerous layups, got 12 points from Awstin Weber and eight points each from Bryce Rutledge and Zach Diecker.
“That’s a good win for us, especially to get one in the postseason,” Walter said. “Building off of Friday night when we won on the road at Civic (Memorial), that was big for us to cap off the regular season.
“They made a little run when we had Hunt on the bench in foul trouble, but I was happy with how we handled things and we put together a little bit of a counter-run ourselves.”