NORMAL -- An early morning tip-off provided the Alleman boys' basketball team with two wake-up calls.
The second one is what concerns the Pioneers the most.
Exhibiting inconsistent stretches on Thursday morning, Alleman once again allowed an opponent to hang around instead of finishing them off. Luckily, the Pioneers still were able to snag a 50-30 win over Macon Meridian in the State Farm Holiday Classic consolation quarterfinal despite scoring six third-quarter points.
"Every game, we go through four-, five- or six-minute periods where we put two or four points on the board," Alleman senior guard Adam Hoogerwerf said. "We're never going to be where we need to be if we keep having those stretches. We need to cut them down to two or three possessions. We can't let it go on."
In other words, the Pioneers (5-5) need a wake-up call. Judging by their mood after the game, they had one.
After Hoogerwerf capped a personal 8-0 second-quarter run with a pair of foul shots, Alleman held a 27-4 advantage. The Pioneers constantly attacked the basket and forced Meridian (4-6) into bad shots, but the swagger was lost once they secured a 23-point lead.
The Hawks scored six of the final seven points of the first half as Alleman missed five shots and committed three turnovers to close the quarter.
"We went through a stretch where we're playing well throughout the game," said Hoogerwerf, who scored a game-high 17 points. "But we have to find something that works for us where we can play the whole game with high intensity."
The third quarter was not any better.
Kevin O'Keeffe's basket midway through the frame ended a 10-minute stretch in which Alleman did not convert a field goal. However, the Pioneers tallied six total points in the quarter and committed five turnovers.
That allowed Meridian to get within 34-18.
"We've got to work on those stretches -- or what I call lapses -- where we get away from what we're doing and what's been successful leading up to that point," Alleman coach Pat Rangel said. "It's coming with experience, maturity and seasoning. Hopefully, we'll keep working on it."
All the Pioneers need to do is find that formula that carried them to a 27-4 lead. In that stretch, they went 10 of 18 from the field and forced six turnovers.
After that, they hit nine of their 23 shot attempts and grabbed five turnovers.
"We need to keep that tempo the whole game," Hoogerwerf said.
Right now, Alleman understands that. Thursday morning provided the evidence.
"The game was never in doubt," said Rangel, whose team meets St. Joseph-Ogden in the consolation semifinal today at 2 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum. "But at the same time, you've got to play as if you're down 18 (points) rather than up 18 because that's going to help you finish the games."