When the Alta High boys basketball team picks up the pace, good things happen.
The Cyclones did that in the second half here Thursday night at the Sioux Central gym, blitzing Northwest Conference rival Pomeroy-Palmer, 60-43 in a Class 1A, District 3 championship game.
The Cyclones, 20-3, are one game away from next week's state tournament. Tonight at Spencer High, tenth-ranked Alta will meet fifth-ranked West-Bend Mallard in a substate final, with the winner advancing to the 'Big Dance' in Des Moines.
West Bend Mallard, which has been in the Class A football state finals for the past two years, had a tougher road to Saturday night's game. The Wolverines outscored Sentral-Fenton 5-4 in overtime Thursday to emerge 52-51 winners.
"They're a very physical team under the basket," Cyclone coach Bart Smith said. "Our keys will be staying with them on the boards, and that means boxing out well. We also have to play defense like we have been."
Thursday night, the Cyclones got 15 points from off-guard Tyler Boyd, 12 from small forward Paul Allerdings and 11 from senior point guard Brad Payne.
They vaulted to a 17-9 lead after one quarter, but were outscored 12-7 in the second quarter by Sentral for a 25-21 Alta lead at the half.
Smith told his team at the half it needed to play at a faster pace and that's exactly what it did the last two quarters.
The Cyclones outscored SF 17-7 in the third quarter for a 42-30 at the last break. Alta increased its lead in the fourth quarter, outscoring SF 18-13 for the final 17-point margin.
"We got stalled on 17 for a time in the second quarter," Smith said. "We started forcing the issue and playing more aggressively, which is what we like to do."
Pomeroy-Palmer was led by 6-foot-4 post player David Erickson, who finished his prep basketball career on a high note with a game-high 20 points.
The Knights' second-leading scorer, 6-3 forward Josh Hawks, was in foul trouble in the second half after picking up his third foul early in the third quarter."
The Cyclones were solid in the second half, making nine of 13 free throws.
Alta also shot well from beyond the arc with seven three's, including two each by Boyd and Allerdings and one by Payne.
Now, Smith and his team will turn their attention to West Bend Mallard, which enters tonight's game with a 23-0 mark.
"We've based our play on defense and rebounding and those will be the two keys for us (tonight)," Smith said. "We'll also have to limit their top scorer, Garrett Wirtz."
Wirtz, a 6-3 senior, averages 18 ppg. and seven rebounds per contest.
West Bend Mallard isn't a high-scoring team. Wirtz is the only player averaging in double figures, and the team averages just 56.5 points per game.
Besides Wirtz, the other projected starters are 6-foot point guard Kurt Zaugg, 5-10 shooting guard Jason Banwart, 6-1 forward Seth Banwart and 5-10 Bruce Dahlhauser.
Zaug averages eight ppg., 3.7 rebounds per game and 3.5 assists. Banwart averages 7.23 ppg. and 3.7 rebounds per contest. Seth Banwart averages close to seven ppg. and Dahlhauser averages six ppg.
Dahlhauser is the top three-point shooter, hitting 16 on the season. Jason Banwart has made 15 . As a team, the Wolverines have knocked down 48 three-pointers in 179 attempts for 27 percent.
From the field, WBM hits 54 percent of its shots and has made 189 of 339 free throws for 56 percent.
Tonight's substate tip-off is at 7 p.m. at Spencer High School.