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Lady Spartans bid adieu to 2019 with 54-47 win

Solon defeats one-loss Beckman at home
The Solon Lady Spartans’ Kaia Holtkamp, MaKinley Levin, Jenna LaDage, Ava Stebral, Elly Holubar, Hilary Wilson, Jada Buffington and Claire LaDage are all smiles rushing from the court following their 54-47 triumph over the Beckman Catholic Trailblazers on Friday, Dec. 20, at Solon High School.

SOLON– “A win tonight would make Christmas stuffing taste better,” Assistant Coach Jim Smith said on Friday night, Dec. 20, in the heat of the fourth quarter during a varsity basketball game between the Lady Spartans and the Beckman Trailblazers.
Solon hung on, following a one-point deficit, 18-17, in the first quarter, to build a seven-point lead at the half, 30-23. A tight battle in the third quarter, during which Beckman rallied to outscore Solon, 15-11, to trail, 41-38, before the Lady Spartans rebounded to triumph, 54-47, over a previously 6-1 Trailblazer team.
The win not only lifted the Solon team to 3-5 on the season, but delivered positive reinforcement on the court to the improved play the Lady Spartans presented in recent weeks on the court.
Sophomores MaKinley Levin and Kaia Holtkamp recorded 13 of Solon’s 17 points in the first quarter, seven and six respectively, while senior Jenna LaDage added the other four.
Holtkamp pushed the Lady Spartans into the lead over the Trailblazers, 20-18, with a three-pointer from the left corner of the arc with a little less than 1:10 run off the clock in the second. A field goal by LaDage with a little less than a minute remaining in the half gave Solon a 27-21 lead over Beckman. Holtkamp increased the lead to nine points, 30-21, shooting from her spot in the corner. With a little more than 10 ticks remaining, the Trailblazers added two, sending the teams to the locker room with Solon leading, 30-23.
Beckman closed within two, trailing 30-28, before Solon put points on the board in the third period and again wrestled their way within a point with 3:20 remaining in the third. Sophomore Elly Holubar’s layup gave the Lady Spartans breathing room, increasing the margin to 39-36 with a little over 2:15 remaining in the quarter, then made it 41-36, with a near repeat of her previous lay-up. Beckman responded and closed within three with a little over six seconds on the clock to close it to a three-point Solon lead and a 41-38 score.
Beckman junior Kennedy Arens dropped a shot in the lane to make the Lady Spartans nervous, cutting Solon’s lead to one point, 41-40, with just shy of 2:30 gone in the fourth quarter. A costly foul and a free throw by a Trailblazer knotted the game with just over five minutes remaining.
Holubar answered the beckoning of Solon Head Coach Jamie Miller, who was to his feet on the sideline, delivering another clutch layup for a 43-41 lead with a tick less than five minutes remaining in the game. LaDage provided a 46-41 lead with a pull up jump shot at the top of the key at the 4:15 mark for Solon and almost 30 seconds later Holubar found her way to another layup for a 48-41 margin. A drive to the basket, drawing a foul, allowed Hilary Wilson to drop in two from the charity stripe and bolster the Lady Spartans to a 50-41 lead with 2:51 remaining in the game.
Beckman, realizing time was waning, added two to its score a little less than 30 seconds later. Solon slowed down, having spent much of the game focusing on their fast transitions compared to Beckman’s attempts to slow the tempo of the game down, and played solid defense, but a costly foul afforded Beckman sophomore Lauren Osterhaus to bring the Trailblazers to within five of Solon, 50-45. LaDage pushed Solon out 52-45, courtesy of a Holubar assist with 1:35 aglow atop the scoreboard. Trailblazer Osterhaus worked inside with 1:10 showing to slice into the Lady Spartan lead, 52-47, before once again Holubar saved the day with a layup to provide Solon’s final score and the game’s final, 54-47.
Even social media alerted the Solon faithful of the Lady Spartans’ successful adieu to the 2019 portion of the season. @SolonGBB on Twitter, on Dec. 20 at 8:01 p.m., said, “Thanks for all the support tonight! What a great team win! A lot of growth first half of the season. #PTM #FORK”
Solon Head Coach Jamie Smith was also pleased with the pre-holiday win.
“Not for sure I have ever felt we have a game until the final horn,” Coach Smith commented. “I thought we did a great job the last 1:06 closing it out!”
“Kaia played her best game of the year,” he added. “Shot it well passed it well and her defense was better. Thought Hilary (Wilson) and Ava (Stebral) did a great job off the bench. Overall, great performance by the whole team. Seven players had an assist, so great team ball.”
Solon was 21-47 on field goals (44.7 percent), 7-18 shooting threes (38.9 percent) and 5-8 from the charity stripe (62.5 percent) as a team during the game with 12 offensive and 16 defensive rebounds. The team was responsible for 16 total assists with seven steals and one blocked shot while committing just 16 turnovers in the game against the Trailblazers. It was the Lady Spartans’ first triumph over Beckman Catholic in the last six meetings between the two with the next meeting scheduled for Friday, Jan. 31, at Beckman Catholic High School.
Solon’s Holtkamp led all scorers for the evening with 14 points, while collecting two offensive and two defensive rebounds and five assists which also led the team. The Trailblazers’ Kennedy Arens led Beckman Catholic’s scorers with 12 points.
Holubar and LaDage each scored 12 points for the Lady Spartans while Levin was limited to 10 points, drawing extra attention from the Trailblazer defense. Wilson scored four points and Jada Buffington scored two.
LaDage had four assists and three defensive rebounds, also stealing the ball twice. Wilson and Holubar were responsible for 10 of the Lady Spartans’ rebounds with five apiece, two offensive and three defensive each. Wilson recorded an assist and a steal, while Holubar amassed two steals. Buffington had four rebounds, three offensive and one defensive, and two assists; Levin pulled down three balls from the boards, an offensive and two defensive, and contributed two assists with a steal and a blocked shot; Ava Stebral battled for two defensive rebounds, added two assists and snatched a steal; and the team was credited two unassigned offensive rebounds.
Coach Smith was pleased with the Lady Spartans’ ability to spread the scoring with four players in double digits, while holding the Trailblazers to their lowest point total thus far in the 2019-20 season.
“We have other players that can score as was shown tonight,” he said. “Our offense is based on getting open looks. That’s why it was nice to see players hit some shots tonight.”
Coach Smith complimented the Trailblazer defense while praising the Lady Spartans’ performance.
“Beckman plays a nice zone defense and really took us out of things from time to time,” he pointed out. “Fourth quarter, I thought we did a good job with penetration and got some good looks.”
He continued to praise the Beckman defensive performance, reiterating Solon’s tenacity persevered. “Again, their zone defense was very good they also rebounded the ball well and I didn’t think we did. We just kept at it and got some good looks late in the fourth.”
Coach Smith did tease a little about the opportunities ahead in the New Year though.
“We are hopeful that Emma (Bock) will be back after Christmas break,” he commented. “Emma got some varsity experience the second half of last year. She will bring a defensive presence.”
Following the New Year, the Lady Spartans’ varsity basketball team (3-5) returns to the hardwood, opening 2020 on Friday, Jan. 3, on the road facing the Marion Indians (6-0) at Marion High School at 6 p.m. The Mount Vernon Mustangs (2-5) visit Solon, Tuesday, Jan. 7, for a 7 p.m. game and then Solon visits West Delaware High School (1-7) on Friday, Jan. 10, for a 7:30 p.m. tip off. Tuesday, Jan. 14, the Lady Spartans battle the Williamsburg Raiders (1-6) at Williamsburg High School at 6 p.m. and Friday, Jan. 17, Solon hosts Maquoketa (6-2) at 7:30 p.m.
Coach Smith welcomes the New Year’s competition, yet realizes there are challenges ahead.
“Marion, nothing could be said except they are very, very good,” he elaborated. “Mount Vernon, they will be tough and they play great defense. West Delaware, they have a really aggressive 2-3 zone and got a nice win Friday (Dec. 20, over South Tama).
“Williamsburg, maybe one of the top athletic teams in the conference,” he added. “So they will always be in games. Maquoketa, top 15 team in 4A. Very athletic. Gave Marion all they wanted before Christmas.”
The Lady Spartans were all smiles, sprinting from the floor following the handshakes, confidence bolstered by an early holiday gift.
Statistics for the article provided by quickstatsiowa.com and the Varsity Bound- Iowa High School Sports app on Thursday, Dec. 26.