SPARTA -- Reid Frederking scored 19 points to lead four players in double figures, and Steeleville opened the Sparta Mid-Winter Classic with a 63-60 win over Waterloo on Tuesday.
The Warriors (10-5) trailed by eight, 50-42, on a 3-pointer by Waterloo"s Ben Huels with 6:29 remaining, but Steeleville fought back to tie the game at 52 on two free throws by Owen Gross with 3:27 to go.
The teams were then tied at 54, 56 and 58 before a Gross putback with 36 seconds left put Steeleville up for good.
At the other end, two huge blocks - the biggest by Noah Valleroy on a layup attempt by Dylan Hunt with 12.8 left - by the Warrior defense in the final 15 seconds sealed the victory.
"I"ve told him all year, but I told Noah in the first half "You"re 6-6. If you just be aggressive on both ends, you"ll make something happen,"" said Steeleville coach Bryce Bainter. "Finally in the second half, something clicked and he did that.
"That was a big turning point in the game when he started to get going."
At the time of Valleroy"s block, Steeleville was clinging to a 60-58 advantage. Gross (15), Dusty Sutton (10) and Valleroy (12) also reached double digits offensively for the Warriors.
The Bulldogs (5-11) were very efficient at the free-throw line, converting 17 of 20 attempts.
"We knew they had the one big kid that was pretty athletic," Bainter said, referring to Ross Schrader. "I thought by getting him inside, we got him in foul trouble and that was a big key to the game because then the lineup they brought in - even though it was athletic - it wasn"t near as big and we were able to get good looks inside."
Schrader led Waterloo with 19 points, while Huels added 18 and Eli Dodd contributed 11.
"We didn"t have much of a post presence (Tuesday)," said Waterloo coach Dane Walter. "(Schrader) brought that for us. So taking him out, putting him on the bench, we really didn"t any post presence and they killed us inside."
Walter also gave his thoughts on the two blocks.
"If those were both clean, then hat"s off to those guys," he said. "With the fouls that were called, I thought those right in succession should have been called and at least put the pressure on us and send us to the free-throw line in that situation.
"Either way, I"m not blaming (the loss) on that."
Waterloo scored the first seven points of the game and led for most of the contest, taking a 30-21 lead late in the second quarter after a 3-pointer from Dodd that capped a 14-0 run by the Bulldogs.
Waterloo took a 34-28 lead into the locker room at halftime, but Steeleville went on a 12-6 run to tie the game at 40 with 1:45 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs led 43-40 entering the fourth and expanded their lead to seven, 47-40, by scoring the first four points of the final frame. But as they had before, the Warriors fought back again.
"We didn"t play very well," Walter said. "They beat us in the turnover category, they beat us in the rebound category, they got loose balls, they earned it."
Bainter gave his take on what changed for his team in the second half.
"We got some shots, but at the same time, we guarded a little bit, we picked up the pressure and we stopped giving them second chances," Bainter said. "I felt in the first half we gave them too many second chances."
Up next for Steeleville is tonights" 7 p.m. battle with defending tournament champion Murphysboro (10-3). The Red Devils will come in fresh after being off on the tournament"s opening day.
"Athletic," Bainter said of Murphysboro. "We played them over the summer and they are very athletic and like to get up and go.
"We"ll definitely have to be ready to get back and try and contain their quickness and athleticism."
Also tonight, Waterloo takes on Trico at 5:30 p.m. and Sparta battles Freeburg at 8:30 p.m. In other action Tuesday, Alton Marquette beat Freeburg (49-29) and Sparta beat Red Bud (48-43).