Who: No. 2 Pella (23-2) vs No. 6 Sergeant Bluff-Luton (17-7)
What: Class 3A - State - Semifinal
Where: Wells Fargo Arena
When: Thursday, March 11 at 4 p.m.
These two have met twice in the state tournament with Sergeant Bluff-Luton winning the first two meetings. SBL won 66-55 in 2017 and 58-43 in last year’s quarterfinals. Pella trailed 16-5 after the first quarter and tried to play catchup from there. Grant Nelson had a team-high 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting in that game for the Dutch.
By the numbers
Sergeant Bluff-Luton is another elite defense as the top four scoring defenses are all at state. SBL is ranked third giving up an average of 44.6 points per game. The Warriors only allowed 37 points in an overtime win over Western Dubuque in the quarterfinals. Pella’s offensive numbers are well documented. They rank first in three-pointers made (10.6) and three-point percentage (38.8%) and second in points (70.6) and assists (18.6). The Warriors boast a significant size advantage in the front court with the likes of Jake Layman (6-foot-8) and Majok Majouk (6-foot-10), both are Southwest Minnesota State commits. SBL is riding an 11-game winning streak while Pella enters on an eight-game winning streak.
One key player for Pella
Pella head coach Derek Schulte talked about it after their win over Monticello. At state, you are going to play teams with great length, great defense and like to play slow. Pella knows it may have to win games in a variety of ways and one of those is by having your depth come up big. Parker Elder is one of those guys that will be challenged on both ends after scoring eight points against Monticello. As an athletic defender, he may have to guard one of the two of Layman and Majouk and try to slow them down. Offensively, he is a slashing playmaker that will be driving against an elite shot blocker in Majouk, who averages 1.9 blocks per game and had three blocks in the quarterfinals. SBL will try to run Pella’s shooters off the line and filter them towards Majouk. Moving the ball and pump faking with be key but if Elder can penetrate and kick out or finish against size and get SBL into foul trouble, it would be huge for the Pella offense in what could be a grinder.
Keys for Pella
Pace is always important but let me put into perspective what that means for both teams. Pella took 44 shots in their quarterfinal win while the much slower SBL only took 26 shots total in a game that went to overtime. The Warriors have no problem playing in the half-court. They will run a lot of dribble handoffs to try get favorable matchups on switches or drive to rim off the handoff. The Pella defense will need to move their feet and stay in front then try to grab the rebound and run before the SBL can get set up. Another big thing to watch is Pella was able to score 59 points despite an off shooting night from three where they were just 4-of-14. They average 10 threes a game so if they can see some more of those outside shots fall, that would go a long way against a SBL team that was 2-of-9 from three on Tuesday. SBL is looking for their third title game appearance in the last five years and their first state title while Pella will be playing for their first trip to the state title game since 2010.