SOLON– Defense was the key.
The Lady Spartans picked up their second win of the season over the weekend with a 50-37 victory over Mid-Prairie, part of a girls/boys doubleheader Saturday in Solon.
The Lady Spartans turned up the heat on Mid-Prairie, coming away with 18 steals and some transition opportunities.
“Our game plan against Mid-Prairie was to pressure their guards,” said Solon head coach Tony Nicol. “I thought Rylee Smith did a tremendous job of frustrating Mid Prairie’s point guard.”
As a result, Smith and Ali Herdliska spent a lot of time at the free throw line. Smith was 6-11 at the charity stripe, while Herdliska was 7-13. Herdliska led all scorers with 12 points, the only Lady Spartan in double-figures. But eight Solon players made it into the scoring column, including Smith and Shelby Gunnells with eight, Josie Durr with seven and Alex Henry with five.
The Lady Spartans took a 13-8 at the end of first quarter, and outscored Mid-Prairie in all but the fourth when the game was well in hand.
“All around it was our best team defense of the year,” Nicol said. “I was also really happy with the way we ran our zone offense and our ability to continue to attack and get to the foul line.”
Solon out-rebounded Mid-Prairie 19-14, had a better night shooting from the field and committed fewer fouls. Durr and Herdliska each had five steals, while Smith had three and Candice Kucera had two. Sydney Lawson had four assists to lead the Lady Spartans.
“We have a deep and capable bench and on Saturday it was fun to see all of the girls playing well and contributing,” Nicol said. “The next step is building on the success of this game and try to keep the momentum going into holiday break.”
The win put the Lady Spartans at 2-4 on the year.
The fourth loss came Tuesday on the road at Mount Vernon, a game that saw the Lady Spartans score just two points in the third quarter only to storm back in the fourth quarter and fall just shy, 44-38.
“I don’t feel that Mount Vernon really did anything different in the third quarter. We really struggled with energy,” said Nicol. “The girls turned it around by finding some energy and when that happens they cut harder and defend better and in this case were able to cut into a deficit.”
Solon had a first quarter lead, 15-14, but Mount Vernon outscored the Lady Spartans 14-7 in the second for a 28-22 halftime lead. By the end of the third, that margin had grown to 37-24.
Sophomore Hannah Bluder led the scoring with seven points, followed by Gunnells, Herdliska and Nichole Oberthien with six points each. Solon shot 34 percent from the field, but 46 percent (6-13) from behind the 3-point line, led by Gunnells, who was 2-3 beyond the arc.
Gunnells also had four rebounds, sharing the team lead with Molly Walkner.
The Lady Spartans close out 2013 with two home games– Central DeWitt was scheduled to visit Tuesday, and Dyersville Beckman comes to Solon Friday, Dec. 20.