DES MOINES — Strong balance in the first half gave way to a predictably dominant second half for star center Austin Phyfe, and Waverly-Shell Rock was able to punch its ticket to the Class 3A boys' state basketball semifinals.
Phyfe scored 11 of his 17 points in the second half, and the Go-Hawks held off a late Atlantic rally, pulling away for a 58-44 win in Tuesday's quarterfinals.
With four starters 6-foot-4 or taller, the Trojans were able to swarm the 6-10 center underneath the entire first half. Phyfe went 2 of 4 from the field in the opening 16 minutes, with all of his shots coming from behind the 3-point line.
"They weren't going to let him touch the ball inside," W-SR Coach Nate Steege said. "Every time he was inside the paint he had three guys around him. We just couldn't get him touches."
Fortunately for the Go-Hawks, Phyfe's supporting cast was able to pick up the slack.
Eight different players scored for Waverly-Shell Rock in the first half, helping the Go-Hawks pull ahead by as many as 16 points.
"He just draws a lot of attention so we know that we need to step up, do what we do and make our shots," said Jacob Bahe, who finished with eight points.
And with shots falling from all over the place, Steege knew it was only a matter of time before things started to open up for his top player.
"Once you get a lead, it's a little harder to pack that defense in there that tight," Steege said.
Facing less intense pressure, Phyfe took advantage, scoring nine points on 4 of 4 shooting in the third quarter. He also pulled down a game-best nine rebounds.
But while their top player was finding his groove, the Go-Hawks were struggling to put the game away, as Atlantic got as close as six late in the fourth quarter.
But John Stensland, who'd been scoreless to that point, picked an ideal time to end his shooting drought, draining a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 50-41 with 3:01 to play.
Stensland's shot kick-started a 7-0 run to essentially ice the game, with Stensland himself adding six more points from the foul line.
Superior depth has been a big reason the 23-1 Go-Hawks were able to earn the top seed in the 3A tournament and it came in handy again as they finished with a 15-0 edge in bench points.
Steege wasn't thrilled with every aspect of the game, saying his team, which committed 16 turnovers, was too careless with the ball at times and didn't attack with the same energy after jumping out to a big early lead.
But when the pressure was on, his players responded, helping secure a spot in the next round of play.
"Every time they got it to six or eight, I felt like we had a good possession where we either got a bucket or a good shot," he said. "Our defense down the stretch was really good. Every shot they took tonight was challenged and that's all we can ask of our guys."
Waverly-Shell Rock will face reigning 3A state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier at 6:35 Thursday evening. The fifth-seeded Saints advanced with a 59-44 win over Mount Pleasant.