SOLON– It was a rollercoaster ride for the Solon boys’ basketball team last week.
After knocking off Williamsburg at home in heart-stopping fashion Tuesday, the Spartans lost two on the road– by one point to Vinton-Shellsburg and by five points to undefeated Iowa City Regina.
“We have not been our sharpest,” said acting head coach Miguel Villagrana. “We have to find a way mentally to put the game away. The challenge will be there for our kids.”
Solon’s boys were expected to face winless Independence Tuesday, and then travel to Dyersville Thursday to face Beckman in a makeup of a previously snowed out game. Then it’s back home to host Maquoketa Friday, and a short road trip to face Mount Vernon Tuesday, Feb. 4.
“It’s not the position we want to be in, but it’s the one we find ourselves in and we’re just going to have to take it from there,” Villagrana said.
Solon’s one-point win over Williamsburg Tuesday was an instant classic.
The Spartans’ lead dwindled in the last three minutes of the game thanks to Solon turnovers, and Austin Miller was called for a foul when Williamsburg’s Matt Heitmann got the ball deep in the paint as time expired.
With his team trailing 59-58, Heitmann had a chance to tie the game or secure the win for the Raiders.
With Miller encouraging the crowd to make noise, Heitmann missed the first free throw, and then the second, giving Solon the win.
“It was a nice, exciting environment,” Villagrana said of the ending. “You remember moments like that.”
The Spartans roared out to a 12-7 first quarter lead, but Villagrana said the team relaxed in the second and let the Raiders back in the game. “It was pretty much a dogfight the rest of the way,” he noted.
Solon shot 43 percent from the field, led by Emilio Villagrana with 16 points, Nick Shelman with 14 and Miller with 10. Shelman and Jaden Durr each had five rebounds to pace the Spartans. Four of Durr’s boards came on the offensive glass.
Friday at Vinton, however, the Spartans let one slip away.
“We forgot to bring our offense with us,” Villagrana observed.
Both Solon and Vinton-Shellsburg struggled in the first quarter, and both teams picked it up in the second, but the Vikings built a lead and the Spartans couldn’t take it away until it was almost too late.
Down by 11 points with four minutes remaining, Solon picked up the intensity, and with five seconds left, the Spartans had grabbed a two-point lead.
But Vinton-Shellsburg’s Griffin Williams hit a long 3-pointer, his only points of the game, as time expired and Solon suffered its second loss of the season, 50-49.
Miller was the only Spartan in double figures with 19 points. Ethan Ahern added nine, and Durr eight. Ahern also had six rebounds to lead Solon.
At Iowa City Regina the next night, too many fouls and too much Drew Cook gave the Spartans their third loss of the year.
Cook scored 27 points, including 10-13 from the free throw line, to give Regina a 58-53 win.
“They prepared well for us,” Villagrana said of the Regals. “It was a very frustrating loss.”
Led by Shelman’s 18 points and Miller’s 14, Solon kept it close throughout the game. Villagrana said the team made a concerted effort to get the ball in the paint and get to the free throw line, but the calls from the referees didn’t follow.
Solon shot seven free throws on the night, while the Regals had 22 attempts.
“It took forever for us to get into the bonus,” he lamented. “But we can’t be frustrated by the calls.”