COLUMBIA, ILL. • Waterloo senior forward Shane Lenhardt admits that his team might not be particularly flashy.
"We play ugly a lot," he said.
The Bulldogs have no go-to scorer and rarely produce eye-popping plays.
But they excel at the fundamentals and that was enough to lead them to a 53-33 win over Metro East Lutheran on Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Columbia/Freeburg Holiday Tournament.
Second-seeded Waterloo (3-4) will face rival Columbia (4-3) in a much-anticipated semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. Top-seeded Alton Marquette (8-2), the two-time defending tournament champion, faces fourth-seeded Freeburg (4-5) in the other semifinal at 8:30 p.m.
The winners meet for the championship at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The Bulldogs moved into the Final Four with another in a series of business-like efforts. They used a smothering defense, and just enough offense to pull away from Lutheran.
"Our hustle, our ability to get loose balls, things like that, that's what we're good at," Waterloo coach C.J. Cruser said. "It may be ugly at times. But for us, it works."
The Bulldogs have no player scoring in double figures. Their leading rebounder sits at about four boards per game.
"We're all pretty much even, we can all score," Lenhardt said. "It depends on whose night it is."
Lenhardt took the leading role on Thursday with a team-high 11 points. Junior Rick Wiegand added nine points. Ryan Aycock, Zach Schaab and Daniel Gardner all came through with key baskets.
Waterloo used a 12-3 run over the final 4:31 of the first half to carry a 26-17 lead into the break. Lenhardt and Co. went on an 8-0 blitz in the third period to put the game away.
"It took us a while to make shots and get into our offense," Cruser said. "Our defense, for the most part, was good. Defense always travels well."
Lenhardt hit back-to-back baskets in a 68-second span in the second period to put his team in front to stay. Jonny Albers followed with a short jumper and Schaab scored twice in the final 1:41 to close the streak. Gardner added a key steal to the outburst.
The Bulldogs' under .500 record is also deceiving. They lost to several top-notch teams including a 10-point season-opening defeat to large-school power Edwardsville.
Waterloo has led at half in six of seven games this season.
"For the most part, we've done a nice job especially with our defense," Cruser said. "The defense always keeps us in there."
In other quarterfinal games:
ALTON MARQUETTE 75, LOVEJOY 38 • Marquette senior Deion Lavender scored 31 points as the Explorers rolled to an easy win in this quarterfinal game.
Lavender, an NCAA Division One prospect, scored 25 points in the first half and left the game with 4:20 remaining.
Marquette led 46-17 at the break and coasted home.
COLUMBIA 55, HILLSBORO 42 • The Eagles put together a 3-point barrage in the third period to dispose of Hillsboro (4-4).
Sophomore Cameron Roth led the way with a game-high 15 points. Foster Grundlach added 13 points. The duo hit three successive treys in a 59-second span to put Columbia up stay 33-25.
"These kids know that when they're out on the floor they've got to play hard," Columbia coach Mark Sandstrom said. "We did that in the second half."
FREEBURG 46, CIVIC MEMORIAL 40 • Senior Justin Diecker had 17 points and eight rebounds to lead the Midgets to victory.