The Waterloo boys basketball team came so close to nabbing its second win of the season on Tuesday, Jan. 11 as the Pirates welcomed in Johnson Creek for a non-conference home game.
Midway through the second half, Waterloo held an 11-point lead over Bluejays. But, a devastating 27-4 run at the end of the game helped Johnson Creek storm back into the lead and secure a 58-50 victory. Having fought hard in a game the night before and missing their leading scorer, senior Eugene Wolff, for the second straight game, the Pirates still performed very well.
“Before the game, we said we weren’t going to use exhaustion as an excuse,” Waterloo head coach Trevor Deppe said. “We did some things well. Rushing shots and getting bad looks instead of working the ball around at the end cost us.”
Early on, there were no signs of trouble for the Waterloo offense. Deppe’s base motion offense, appropriately nicknamed “Pirate,” was working to perfection. Waterloo was finding wide open layups. Senior guard Landin Wollin scored three straight buckets the exact same way as a result of the offense working and solid ball movement from his teammates.
Success from system translated on the defensive side, as well. The Pirates were focused and intentional on defense, playing aggressively in help defense to stay in front of the Bluejays.
Johnson Creek still managed to get rolling for a bit, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers to take a 12-10 lead and steal away the momentum generated by Wollin.
Undaunted, the patented Pirate offense kept plugging away. A drive-and-kick left sophomore guard Benny Marshall wide open for a 3-pointer, followed by a few easy layup looks for Marshall and Wollin. The Pirates took hold of a 7-point lead and continued working.
It was around this time that Johnson Creek’s Logan Sullivan started taking advantage of his opportunities. The 6’2” forward had the quickness and ball handling of a guard, and he started to go to work for the Bluejays. He scored six of Johnson Creek’s last eight points of the first half. Despite Sullivan’s efforts, a late steal and score from Marshall allowed Waterloo to take a 28-23 lead into the halftime break.
After a few minutes of back-and-forth battling from both sides early in the second half, Waterloo took a firm grip of the momentum. Senior guard Antonio Unzueta caught fire, knocking down back-to-back 3-pointers and finding a lane for a layup to spark a 10-2 run to give Waterloo a 40-29 lead, its largest of the game. This prompted a timeout from the Johnson Creek side with about 12 minutes remaining in the game.
“You could tell he was feeling it,” Deppe said of Unzueta’s scoring run.
Whatever Johnson Creek head coach Ryan Lind said in that huddle during the timeout worked.
This was the starting point of the Bluejays’ 27-4 game-winning run. Sullivan was an absolute force, ripping down offensive rebounds and punishing the paint to get his buckets. He had help from his teammates as well as both Isaac Hartz and Austin Anton-Pernat knocked down 3-pointers to help the push.
While the Johnson Creek offense stormed to life, the shots just weren’t falling for the Pirates. The offense was still working, the looks were open, they simply did not fall through the net. The frustrating endeavor was made worse by the ever-ticking clock. With time running out and the Johnson Creek lead expanding, the shots got progressively more rushed as the Pirates urgently worked to get back in the game.
Marshall never quit, scoring two quick buckets for the Pirates to get the Bluejays’ lead back to single digits late in the game. There simply wasn’t enough time. Johnson Creek hung on to secure the 58-50 win.
Johnson Creek’s Sullivan led all scorers with 25 points. For the second consecutive game, Marshall led Waterloo in scoring, this time with 17 points. He’s stepped up his aggression with the ball in his hands and looks far more confident in himself as the season has progressed. He had two teammates break double digit points as well as Unzueta contributed 12 and Wollin had 10.
Waterloo followed this game up with its second Capitol — South conference game of the year, a road trip to Cambridge on Thursday, Jan. 13. Things were tough for the Pirates as the Bluejays pulled out a 77-47 victory. With the loss, Waterloo is now 1-12 on the year and 0-2 in conference play.
The Pirates were slated to host Parkview on Monday, Jan. 17, but the game has been cancelled. Instead, Waterloo will kick off the week by hosting Capitol — South foe New Glarus on Tuesday, Jan. 18. They’ll close out the week with a trip to Belleville on Friday, Jan. 21.
Capitol — South boys basketball standings
- as of Saturday, Jan. 15
(overall records in parenthesis)
T1. Belleville, 2-0 (9-3)
T1. Wisconsin Heights, 2-0 (6-5)
3. Cambridge, 1-0 (7-5)
4. Marshall, 0-1 (10-2)
T5. New Glarus, 0-2 (7-7)
T5. Waterloo, 0-2 (1-12)