Danville advances to state by defeating Pekin, Sigourney
MUSCATINE — Pekin fell to Danville Friday night in the semifinals of the Class 1A District 9 substate tournament.
Danville defeated Pekin by a score of 88 to 58.
Danville then defeated Sigourney in the substate final Saturday by a score of 61 to 29.
Danville’s Steven Soukup continued his torrid play this postseason, scoring a game-high 36 points in the win over Sigourney. The Bears (25-0), who earned the top seed in the state tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in a little more than a week, will open the tournament against eighth-seeded Wapsie Valley (17-8) March 4 at 10:30 a.m.
“It’s still a great feeling to get to the state tournament,” said Soukup, who averaged 37.5 points per game in the four games leading up to state. “For a lot of people, this is an expectation, and it’s our goal to get to state every year. But after tonight, our ultimate goal turns to winning a state championship.”
The Bears overcame Sigourney’s stalling tactics to open the game. The Savages (21-4) were willing to consume clock and run a slow pace. Once the Bears forced three straight turnovers and built a quick 6-0 lead, the game plan did no good.
Steven Soukup scored the first eight points for the Bears, and brother Michael added a pull-up jumper in building a 10-3 lead. Steven Soukup then buried a 30-footer as time expired to make it a 13-point lead.
The physicality of the game occurred the whole night. Shots were contested and there were plenty of hard fouls by both teams. Yet, this has perhaps been the only thing holding back the Bears from winning the coveted state title the last two years.
“It was brutal out there. People were getting away with things, but it was going both ways,” Danville coach Ken Laffoon said. “The officials let the game go, but I thought our kids held their composure well.”
“It was pretty physical, but that’s something we can use in the future,” Soukup said. “You never know who you’re going to play up there at state and what style they’ll play.”
The Bears’ defense showed plenty of improvement from Friday’s district final win over Pekin. With little time to prepare, Danville made the Savages’ Vaclav Bujnoch and Brandon Stuhr nonfactors. Both stood 6-foot-7, but they combined for just nine points on 4-of-15 shooting. The duo had combined for more than 36 points per game this season and shot better than 60 percent from the floor.
“With (Bujnoch) we wanted to play him on the perimeter and it make tough for him out there,” Soukup said. “With (Stuhr), we saw that he didn’t like to post up too much. We wanted to force them out of the realm of their offense.”
Sigourney scored just eight points by halftime, and had plenty more turnovers than points in the first 16 minutes. The Savages seemed to have no answer for either Soukup, and Connor Hoelzen buried three 3-pointers as well. The Soukups scored all but three first-half points for the Bears, who led by 19 at the break.
The second half also featured chippy play, with Sigourney’s Blaine Gretter hit with a technical foul and the Bears up 29. Again, the third quarter was mostly a clinic put on by the Soukups, who scored all but three points.
“There really wasn’t any free-flow to the game for us. It was more of a grind,” Laffoon said. “I had some doubts whether we could win a game that way. What matters is the win.”
Steven Soukup compared the game to the last two state championship games against Storm Lake St. Mary’s and Boyden-Hull. Both were games that saw those two teams pull away in the second half, without the aid of a huge run.
“Hopefully this is something that prepares us for the stretch,” he said. “I think we’re a little more experienced this year, and we have a few more guys off the bench who can give us a minute or two. We have decent chemistry because we’ve played a lot together.”
Though the results don’t reflect it, Laffoon said his team has “hit a funk.”
“We were playing so well two weeks ago, but now we’ve got a week to take care of some of our question marks,” he said. “We’re going to do some healing this week, regroup and be ready to go.
“It’s always a fun week, because you have the state tournament to think about.”