By Phil Keren
Some hustle plays down the stretch keyed Waterloo to a 40-38 road victory over Garfield on Friday night.
“We needed to get one,” said Waterloo head coach Jason Wise. “We have seven of our first eight games on the road … we needed to find a way, before we get into league play, to get a win. We found a way to win.”
With Garfield leading 37-34 midway through the fourth quarter, Waterloo senior Jackson Eichler knocked down a 3-pointer to tie the game at 37. The game was still tied a few minutes later after both teams had multiple scoreless possessions. Waterloo senior Kyle Werbeck then scored on an offensive rebound to give his Vikings squad a 39-37 advantage with about 1:30 left to play.
“Kyle is just a great teammate,” Wise said. “He’s going to do whatever he has to do to help us win games. I can’t say enough good things about the kid.”
Waterloo’s defense then recorded two defensive stops on Garfield’s next two possessions and didn’t allow the G-Men to snag an offensive putback. The rebounds were corralled by senior Landon McClain on the first possession and by senior Drew Flarida on the next possession.
With 16 seconds left and Waterloo clinging to a 39-37 lead, Werbeck went to the free-throw line after he was fouled by Garfield freshman Oliver Walker. Werbeck missed both free throws, but Vikings senior Kaii Warren grabbed the rebound and passed to Eichler, who was fouled.
“The play Kaii made on the missed free throw was the play of the game,” Wise said. “That was a huge rebound. He dribbled it back out. He didn’t do anything with it that he shouldn’t have, he got it to our free-throw shooters.”
Eichler then made one of the two foul shots to give Waterloo a 40-37 advantage with 11 seconds left.
Garfield junior Preston Gedeon then fired a 3-point shot which bounced off the rim, but the G-Men got the rebound and kicked it back to Gedeon. He put up another trey just as the final buzzer sounded. The shot was again off the mark, but a foul was called against the Vikings, sending Gedeon to the line for three free throws and a chance to tie the game.
After a brief discussion, the referees agreed to put a half-second back on the game clock. Gedeon swished the first free throw, but his second attempt rattled in and popped out. With his team trailing by two, Gedeon intentionally missed the final free throw to give his team a chance to get a putback to tie the game. The referee, however, blew the play dead, ruling that Gedeon had stepped over the line before he released the shot.
“The kids were battling,” said Garfield head coach Andrew Olesky. “It was a physical game. Both teams were working very, very hard. There’s some things that we’re continuing to work on to get better. We got better since Tuesday, but some of our old mistakes reared their ugly heads.”
Waterloo was led by Eichler, who scored 20 points, including four 3-pointers.
“Jackson is our most consistent player on offense,” Wise said. “Everything that we run is to get him touches … Jackson is a lights-out shooter when he gets going. He’s added a little off-the-dribble-type game. He’s a great free-throw shooter. He’s our leader.”
Warren scored six for Waterloo, while Werbeck added five.
Olesky praised the performance and effort of Waterloo.
“Give Waterloo credit, too,” said Olesky, who coached at Waterloo as an assistant under John Herchek before being hired to lead the G-Men. “They’re a good team. They’ve got some players that are tough to defend and they forced us into some mistakes. We’re a work in progress, and we’re going to do our best to get better every day.”
Wise also complimented Olesky’s crew on a hard-fought game.
“It’s kind of become a rivalry-type game,” Wise said. “I think both teams kind of get up for this game. His kids played their hearts out. They played really hard tonight.”
Gedeon led the G-Men with 16 points and also canned four 3-pointers. Senior Eric Geddes had six and junior Nick Edic chipped in with five.
The game started out as a sharp-shooting contest, but then settled into a tough, physical competition, where a little extra effort on a rebound or loose ball made a major difference.
Nearly half of the points for the entire game were scored in the first quarter. A total of eight 3-pointers (five from Garfield and three from Waterloo) were tallied in that first period, which ended with the G-Men leading, 19-17.
The second quarter played out in the opposite manner, as the defenses tightened up and both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net. At halftime, Garfield led 24-20.
Waterloo controlled the third period as they outscored Garfield 14-5. In that quarter, contributions came from multiple players: Eichler netted a 3-pointer and made three out of four free throws, while Warren scored on two layups and junior Gage Hawley tallied a pair of put-backs.