Spartans clamp down
SOLON– The Spartans outscored their opponents 170-124 last week, picking up three more victories and avenging an earlier loss.
Solon’s boys defeated West Delaware, Central Clinton of DeWitt and Mid-Prairie to move their record to 13-3.
But it wasn’t all peaches and cream.
Against West Delaware on the road, the Spartans had a lead of 20 points but won by single digits, 58-49.
“They just wouldn’t go away,” head coach Brad Randall said. Buoyed by some crucial 3-pointers by senior Austin M. Miller, Solon’s boys fended off a late charge in the fourth during which they were outscored 19-13.
“For the most part we played defense really well,” Randall said, limiting West Delaware to just 3 points in the first quarter.
Solon had three players in double digits led by Ryan Kunkel with 13 points. Austin M. Miller added 11, including 3-5 from 3-point land, and Joe Weeks with 10. Weeks had eight rebounds to help propel the Spartans. Emilio Villagrana had seven assists.
Randall was happier with the defense Saturday night hosting Central Clinton of DeWitt. DeWitt was responsible for the season’s first loss, and Solon responded by cranking up the defensive pressure.
The Spartans held DeWitt to 5 points in the first quarter and 5 points in the third quarter on the way to a 50-35 home win.
“It was one of our best four quarters this year,” Randall said. “It reminded us of the defense by the teams that went to the state tournament.”
Solon rattled off 18 points in the first quarter and then withstood a second quarter rally to take a 31-20 halftime lead. The Spartans extended the lead in the third to 43-25.
“Ten kids scored,” Randall said. “That’s the balance we’ve been striving for.”
Kunkel again led the scoring with 13 points on 6-8 shooting. He also led the team in rebounds with seven, and had three blocked shots. Rory Siddell, Villagrana and Weeks were all 3-5 from the field, helping Solon shoot 55 percent for the game. Villagrana added five steals and five assists. Ethan Ahern had four assists.
By the time Solon faced Mid-Prairie Saturday, they were playing their sixth game in two weeks, and that may have resulted in a slow start that left them with a 1-point lead after the first quarter.
The Spartans went on to outscore the Golden Hawks 47-18 the rest of the way for a 62-40 win.
“We really wore them down,” Randall said. “We got the ball in areas where we were dominant.”
And for the most part, that meant punching it inside to Weeks and Kunkel.
Solon’s three top scorers in the game– Weeks, Kunkel and junior Austin D. Miller– were a combined 18-26 from the field (almost 70 percent). Weeks had 16 points, while Kunkel and Miller each added 12. The Spartans were 2-11 from 3-point land, but shot 75 percent from the free throw line. Weeks was the leading rebounder with nine.
“We’re showing more signs of toughness and poise,” Randall said. “We making progress at the right time.”
The boys have only a single game on the schedule this week, a road rematch with Mount Vernon Tuesday, Jan. 29. Action picks back up Tuesday, Feb. 5, at home against Dyersville Beckman, and then the boys close out the regular season with three road games at West Branch (Thursday, Feb. 7), Williamsburg (Feb. 8), and Western Dubuque (Feb. 12).