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Feeling optimistic

Lady Spartans play top WaMaC teams tough
Shelby Gunnells puts up a shot from the baseline against Mount Vernon. Gunnells put up 13 points against Western Dubuque Friday. (photos by Doug Lindner)

SOLON– Sometimes, a loss can feel okay.
Even though the short-handed Lady Spartans didn’t come away with a win last week against Mount Vernon and Western Dubuque, they gave the two top teams in the conference a run for the money.
With different starters sidelined for each of the home varsity matchups, the girls dropped to 10-10 on the season with a single game remaining.
“Both games were an indicator of how we are progressing as a program,” said head coach Tony Nicol. “We went into the Mt. Vernon game without senior captain Kristin Purdy (the team’s best 3-point shooter and second leading scorer) due to illness. She also plays the most minutes and is extremely solid on defense.
“The girls put forth a tremendous effort and kept it close until the end where Mt. Vernon put the game away with free throws,” Nicol said.
The Lady Spartans kept pace with the Mustangs. Down by 3 at the end of the first quarter, Solon knotted the game for a 25-25 halftime deadlock. The Mustangs pulled away slightly, up 7 at the end of the third quarter and put the game away with a 56-47 final.
Rylee Smith was the only Lady Spartan in double digits with 10 points. Shelby Gunnells added 8 points, while Sydney Lawson, Karly Kramer and Emma Rickels each had 6. Solon shot 19-49 from the field, including 2-11 from 3-point land, but were solid at the line, connecting on seven of 12 attempts.
Ali Herdliska had six rebounds to pace the team.
The Lady Spartans shot an almost identical percentage Friday at home hosting Western Dubuque– 18-49 from the field, 2-8 from the 3-point arc and 8-12 from the line– and the result was another close loss at home, 48-46.
This time, senior Karly Kramer was out with an illness.
“The second half was the best basketball this team has played all year and other than the end result could not have been a better way to close out the last home game of the season,” Nicol said.
Down 6 at the break, the Lady Spartans outscored Western Dubuque 15-7 in the third quarter to take a 2-point lead into the final eight minutes.
“We forced 25 turnovers against one of the best teams in the WaMaC and if just a couple more shots would have fallen, we would have come out with a win,” Nicol said. “I could not be more proud of the effort the team is putting forth at this point and even with two losses this week the feeling in the locker room is one of optimism.”
Gunnells led the scoring with 13 points in a balanced attack. Rylee Smith added 11 and Kristen Purdy 10 (2-3 from the 3-point line). Gunnells had eight rebounds and four assists. Rylee Smith had four steals, while Kristen Purdy had three steals and five assists.
The Solon girls end the regular season at Dyersville Beckman Tuesday, Feb. 5, and begin postseason play Wednesday, Feb. 13, against Marion.