You could almost see the transformation between halves between football legs and basketball legs for the Alleman Pioneers in their 58-44 win over Sterling at Morris Gymnasium on Tuesday night.|
With most of their players two basketball games removed from a state runner-up football finish, Alleman went from errant and sluggish to intense, deliberate and potent from one half to the next for their first post-football-finish victory.
"If we can keep that intensity," Alleman coach Pat Rangel said of the Pioneers' second-half showing, "that's how we can play everybody."
The Pioneers (2-3) took a step back for every one forward in the first two quarters. Eight of Sterling's first 11 points came off of uncontested inbound plays, though Alleman never trailed in the first half and led 24-20 at intermission.
They also hit only 6-of-12 free throws, shot only 35 percent (9-of-26) on field goals and committed 10 turnovers.
In the locker room, though, the Pioneers went through a transformation that would have made The Hulk proud. Suddenly with spring in their step, crispness in their passes, determination on the boards and adeptness in their shots from the line, they steadily pulled away from the 3-4 Golden Warriors.
"We knew we had to win the first five minutes of the second half and it would go from there," said Rangel. "We were more aggressive to the basket and that made all of the difference in the world."
How drastic was the Pioneer change? In the second half, they were 12-of-18 on field goals and 10-of-12 from the line until two missed chances at the end.
They committed just four second-half turnovers, and swept the boards so cleanly that three had five or more rebounds. Kevin O'Keeffe and Sam Pirmann led the team with six each and John Tracey added five.
Scoring also was balanced. O'Keeffe was tops with 15, and Adam Hoogerwerf had 14 on 5-of-6 shooting. Pirmann had 9, Dan Cutkomp had 8 and Tracey had 7.
"We had three check points," said Rangel, "intensity, be deliberate with the ball and be productive on offense. We did all three and that sealed it in the second half."
Alleman will go after its first post-football-finish Western Big 6 Conference victory on Friday. The Pioneers host the Moline Maroons (3-3) at Augustana's Carver Center at 7:30 p.m.
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