Gabe Haberkorn is in his 12th season leading the Waterloo girls basketball team. Entering Friday, Jan. 27, he’d never beaten the Pirates’ biggest rival, the Marshall Cardinals. Marshall’s dominance stretched back even before Haberkorn’s arrival, as Waterloo’s last win in the rivalry came in January of 2007. That frustrating trend came to an end at Waterloo High School on Friday night.
In an instant classic that went down to the wire, Waterloo’s experience showed as senior leaders like Ava Jaehnke and Julia Asik kept their cool down the stretch to avoid turnovers despite the Pirates not having any timeouts remaining for the last minute of the game. This enabled Waterloo to hang on for a historic 50-48 victory.
“It feels great to finally get that monkey off our back,” Haberkorn said. “Over my 12 years here, we’ve managed to beat everyone else in the conference. We could never quite get one over on Marshall. It makes sense, they’ve had some truly great teams. Credit to them where it’s due.”
This was no easy victory for the Pirates. The final minute of the game had the entire gymnasium on the edge of their seats. With the game tied up at 46 thanks to a pair of free throws from Waterloo junior Brenna Huebner, the Pirates were forced to burn their final timeout while Marshall had three remaining. By the slimmest of margins, Marshall had an advantage.
Jaehnke threw all of the Cardinals’ plans into disarray. Slow rotation from the Cardinals’ defense left her wide open in the left corner, and she nailed a three pointer to put Waterloo ahead, 49-46. Marshall would respond, and it nearly stole the game away.
An offensive rebound turned into a foul and an opportunity from the free throw line for Marshall sophomore Kierstin Hoel, who dominated the boards all night. She nailed both attempts. Her teammates forced a Waterloo travel on the ensuing inbounds pass, which was a full-court heave back down to the Pirates’ end. Marshall would have 11 seconds to get the ball in, get down the court, and go for the win.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, a screen attempt didn’t stick as they also hoisted up a full-court pass attempt to senior Allie Rateike. The Pirates got a hand on it and the ball bounced right to Huebner. Foul. Huebner hit one of two with only six seconds to go, putting Waterloo ahead 50-48.
“It’s so important to have experienced players on the court that know what they’re doing,” Haberkorn said of his seniors. “It’s huge. They know situational basketball, it’s stuff we go over all the time in practice. It can’t be overlooked that they know what to do just from verbal instructions.”
Even through this adversity, Marshall still nearly tied things up. The Cardinals missed a three point shot, but Hoel’s outstanding rebounding skills were on display once again as she snagged the miss as the clock neared all zeros. She flung up a desperate attempt to beat the clock. No good.
Waterloo’s bench spilled onto the court, hooting and hollering in celebration of a broken curse. The postgame scene in the locker room was described as “explosive” and “jubilant.” After 31 straight losses, the Pirates were back on the winning side of this rivalry.
Marshall head coach Dan Nickel made no excuses for the loss.
“I was really worried about this game” Nickel said. “This is one of those games that could have gone one way or another. At the end of the day, we just have to be better defensively. All the credit goes to Waterloo.”
Huebner led the game in scoring with 18 points, including the three most vital ones at the end of the game. Jaehnke put up 15 and Asik contributed nine as they both hit three three pointers. Marshall junior Wynn Held played a tremendous game as well, finishing with 17 points to lead the Cardinals. Hoel followed up with 15 and Ratieke had 13.
This win stopped two losing streaks for the Pirates. In addition to Waterloo’s 16-year drought against Marshall, it entered this contest on a five-game losing streak overall. In fact, the Pirates had lost 10 of their last 11 since their 64-55 road loss to Marshall back in mid December.
Waterloo’s momentum from this win carried over into a 53-29 dismantling of Fall River on the road on Monday, Jan. 30. Huebner again led the Pirates in scoring with 17, followed by 11 points from both Jaehnke and junior Tess Blundell. No Fall River player scored in the double digits as Waterloo put on a show defensively
The Pirates now improve to 9-11 overall with a 2-4 record in the Capitol — South conference. Waterloo has already matched its win total from last season. The Cardinals still hold bragging rights in the conference standings as they sit in a tie for third place at 3-3 even with the loss. Overall, Marshall sits at 9-10.
Waterloo will spend its next three games on the road, all of which will be in Capitol — Conference play. The Pirates will head to Wisconsin Heights on Thursday, Feb. 2, to New Glarus on Tuesday, Feb. 7, and to Cambridge on Friday, Feb. 10. They’ll close out the regular season at home against Belleville on Thursday, Feb. 16.
Marshall will also take a quick break from conference action, heading to Brodhead on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The Cardinals will close this week with a trip to Cambridge on Thursday, Feb. 2.
Capitol — South girls basketball conference standings