BELOIT - Shoreland Lutheran head coach Paul Strutz decided fairly early the scouting film he had of Beloit Turner sophomore Dai'Vontrelle Strong didn't really do him justice.
"You really needed to see this kid in person to appreciate him," Strutz said Tuesday night. "We knew he'd be a force because we don't have anybody that size."
The 6-foot-6 Strong scored 17 of his 25 points in the first half and then led a strong second-half defense as the Trojans pulled away to win the WIAA Division 3 regional opener, 57-40.
Turner needed to do something in the second half after leading just 27-25 at the break.
"Their conference is good and we knew they'd come out strong, but they came out even stronger than we thought they would," Strong said. "At the half it's a two-point game and we knew we had to step it up. We didn't want our seniors to be playing their last game."
It certainly helped the Trojans' cause when Steve Dillard and Sereno Ferone opened the second half by hitting back-to-back 3-pointers.
"The threes by Steve and Sereno were huge," Turner head coach Ken Watkins said. "They gave us some breathing room, getting it back to eight and we could go from there. We did a better job of playing with more energy and not fouling."
That was the big adjustment Watkins was looking for after the halftime chat.
"We played with more energy and urgency on the defensive end," the coach said. "Shoreland had made us pay in the first half when we fell asleep defensively, whether it was man-to-man or 1-3-1 (zone). Give them credit, but at the same time our kids have to come ready to play."
They made amends in the second half, using an 8-0 burst to go up 46-29 with 10:38 remaining. It was 51-34 with 5:32 left and the Pacers didn't have a comeback in them.
"When you're playing against kids who are bigger and stronger and more physical than you are, it's going to wear on you," Strutz said. "Ken (Watkins) also runs some good stuff. He changes defense to bother you and they put Strong in positions to score."
In the second half, Strong was often in position to torment Shoreland Lutheran playing the point in the 1-3-1 with another 6-6 big body, Brandon Malcow, in the middle.
"Their coach kept a lot of their starters in and we just ate them up inside with our height and athleticism," Strong said. "On defense, I don't care if I'm playing inside or outside. I like the chance to get the deflections and steals."
He took one of those steals coast-to-coast for a first-half dunk.
Turner (16-7) will travel to East Troy for a showdown of Rock Valley Conference teams. The teams have split with each team winning at home.
Look for more of the Malcow-Strong combination in that one.
"Against some teams, like East Troy, it has worked well," Strong said. "It made them put a strong guy inside on him and somebody bigger on me, too."
"Brandon moves really well for a big guy." Watkins said. "When he comes in, other teams have to account for him. He had a huge putback midway through the second half. As the season has gone on, he has taken the ball to the rim more and he is certainly a hard guy to move out of the way. Dai'Vontrelle is just a real tough matchup for any team. He did a nice job taking the ball to the basket."
• NOTES: Turner shot 22-for 42, hitting 19-of-31 two-pointers and 3-of-11 on treys. Shoreland Lutheran was 9-of-22 on two-pointers and 4-of-18 on treys. ...Dillard tied the school record for 3-pointers with his 70th.