ANAMOSA– So far, so good.
The Solon Spartans remained undefeated in the young varsity basketball season last week, capturing wins on the road at Maquoketa and Anamosa, and entering the Associated Press high school poll, ranked No. 4 in Class 3A.
After two lopsided wins to start the season, the Spartans moved to 4-0 against an always pesky Maquoketa team and a surprising Anamosa squad.
“I like where we’re at,” said head coach Brad Randall. Solon has had four of its first five games on the road, and if the Spartans can win Tuesday at Central DeWitt, seven of the next nine will be at home.
“If we improve in about three areas, we’ll be hard to beat anywhere,” Randall said. “But you can’t sit still.”
Those three areas? Free throws, taking care of the ball and keeping poised at the end of games.
The Spartans had two early tests last week, building a 7-point first quarter lead and then seeing it whittled down to a single point in the closing minutes at Maquoketa Tuesday, Dec. 4.
“It was a very hard-fought game,” Randall said of the 68-61 victory. Solon established a 21-14 lead after the first quarter, but from there, the teams were neck-and-neck to the very end, scoring identical numbers of points in the second (22), third (10) and fourth (15) quarters.
With under two minutes to go, however, the Cardinals had battled back to cut the margin to a single point.
Senior Rory Siddell went to the hoop, converted the basket, drew the foul and sank the free throw, pushing the margin back to 5 points. Siddell finished with 11 points, one of five Spartans in double-digits. Joe Weeks led the team with 14 points, while Emilio Villagrana, Ethan Ahern and Austin D. Miller each had 13. Ahern, Miller and Weeks each had six rebounds to lead the team.
Solon shot over 60 percent from the field as a team, while only 47 percent from the charity stripe.
“It was good to get that win,” Randall said, although he pointed out the team didn’t guard dribble-penetration well, allowing an individual player to score 30 points on Solon.
The defense was more stalwart Friday night, Dec. 7, at Anamosa, and Randall credited Siddell for helping shut down the Raiders’ Spencer Barnes.
“He played a great defensive game,” Randall said of the senior guard.
Solon again took an early lead, holding a 7-point edge at the half. And again, the teams played evenly in the third and fourth quarters. The Spartans were helped in the third by Ahern, who led the scoring with 16 points and went 9-10 from the free throw line, including a 4-point play. Weeks added 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Ryan Kunkel had 10 rebounds, six blocks and six steals.
The Spartans shot better from the free throw line (65 percent), but they had lots of practice. Solon went to the line 51 times, converting on 33 attempts.