IOWA CITY– “It was a game where you couldn’t have too many bad possessions in a row,” Solon Head Coach Brad Randall said. “You have to play pretty flawless to beat them.”
The Solon Spartans fell behind Davenport Assumption in the first quarter of a Class 3A substate final last Monday night, and couldn’t overcome a double-digit lead, losing 59-40.
Solon had trouble keeping up with Assumption’s transition offense, and Assumption’s defense prevented Solon’s Turner Wentzien from scoring until well into the fourth period.
The Spartans found themselves trailing 19-6 at the end of the first period, but rebounded to play Assumption evenly in the second quarter, going into the break facing a 32-18 deficit.
“They were the best transition team we faced this year,” Randall noted. “It was really hard to emulate in practice.”
Solon was able to make some adjustments, and Randall felt the team did a better job of taking away Assumption’s strengths in the second half.
But the Spartans had a hard time generating the offense needed to cut substantially into the lead.
“They really took the game away from Turner Wentzien,” Randall observed. But that left things open for junior Ryan Kunkel, who led the Solon scoring with 14 points on 7-10 shooting. Wentzien had six of Solon’s 10 assists.
Joe Weeks added 10 points and nine rebounds.
The Spartans as a team shot 16-47 from the field, including 2-10 from the three-point line. Solon made 6-8 free throws, with both Rory Siddell and Weeks perfect from the stripe.
But Solon was whistled for 17 fouls and Assumption went to the line 22 times, connecting on 15.
“We played with them, but you have to do it for a whole game,” Randall said.
Assumption edged Solon in rebounds, 29-21, and had four players score in double digits.
“It’s always hard to lose at substate,” Randall said of the team’s season, “but the last two weeks were a lot of fun. We played some of our basketball down the stretch.”
The Spartans will graduate three seniors– Wentzien, Jake Morris and Michael Gillett– but Randall said the future is bright for Solon basketball, hinting that his program might take a page out of Assumption’s book when looking to tweak the Spartan offense for next year.
Despite losing a substate final for the second consecutive year, Solon won its eighth district championship in a row, and the team improved and persevered, he said.