Boys Basketball Noteboook: Solon Excelling in Tight Games


Jeff Yoder Photo /

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

SOLON – Jason Pershing wants his team to play an exciting brand of basketball.

Solon has certainly made things entertaining this season but not exactly in the way its fourth-year coach had in mind.

More than half of the Spartans’ 20 games this season have been decided by seven points or less and Solon (13-7) has had five games, including a pair of overtime contests, decided by three or less.

“I kind of joke around that we try to keep the games fun for the fans,” Solon senior Ben Krutzfeldt said with a laugh. “Coach probably doesn’t like that so much but we try to make it interesting until the end.”

Pershing encourages an exciting, aggressive style of play and the Spartans have taken to their energetic coach.

As for the close calls, Pershing learned early in his career that’s the way it goes in a conference like the WAMAC.

“My first year we lost a lot of close games and after that we practice end of the game situations for at least 10 minutes every single practice,” Pershing said. “It’s a concerted effort for us.”

That preparation has helped Solon go 8-3 in games that are seven points or fewer and the Spartans are 3-2 in games decided by three or less.

“We prepare for being in those games,” Pershing said. “You know you are going to play close games night in and night out in this league.”

What has helped as much as preparing for the late-game scenarios is having a senior laden backcourt executing those plans.

Krutzfeldt and Luke Ira have seven seasons of varsity experience between them.

 “It helps having a lot of experience because you know what it’s like to be in those tight game situations,” Ira said. “We just gel at the right time and we keep our energy up at the end of the game so we are always able to make a push at the end of the game.”

Throw in senior Jack Stahle who has emerged over the last month and sophomore AJ Coons who was a key contributor as a freshman and the ball is rarely in the hands of someone who hasn’t been in close games before.

“We’ve all been in those big spots before,” Krutzfeldt said. “I trust everybody on our team to take a big shot in a close game.”

The hope is that all those close games pay off down the stretch as Solon focuses on another postseason push.

Solon is the second seed in Class 3A Substate 4 and opens with a home game against Keokuk (4-14) on February 19.

With a win the Spartans would host the winner of Fairfield and Washington in a Substate semifinal on February 22.

“I think it will help,” Krutzfelt said of the close games. “We’ve been in those situations obviously and the games that we have lost so we know what it feels like to be in those situations. Hopefully those games pay off and that carries over.”

McCaffery Invited to Final Four Program

West High junior Patrick McCaffery continues to be recognized as one of the elite prospects in the 2019 class.

McCaffery is among 24 prep players from across the country in the 2019 class invited to the NCAA Final Four as part of the Next Generation Sunday Program.

Those players will attend games and play against one another during the Final Four weekend in San Antonio.

Turner Turns in Memorable Performance

It had been a while since a City High player had a game like the one Antonio Turner had at Waterloo East last Friday.

A long while.

Turner poured in a career-high 35 points in an 85-81 win over the Trojans the most for a City High player since 2009.

The 5-foot-9 Turner was 10-of-14 from the field including 2-of-4 from 3-point range and made 13-of-15 free throws in the 35-point performance.

It was the most points in a single game for a City High player since Malcolm Moore had 35 in a 89-86 loss to Cedar Rapids Washington on January 9 or 2009.

Cornwell Moves Up West Branch Scoring Chart

Beau Cornwell still has games remaining in his junior season and already the sharpshooting point guard is climbing the all-time scoring chart at West Branch.

With 30 points in a 72-60 win at Durant on Tuesday Cornwell surpassed Cooper Kabela for second on the all-time scoring list at West Branch.

Cornwell currently sits at 1,258 points and trails only Rylan Murry who finished his career with 1,629 points.

Performances of the Week

City High sophomore Keshawn Christian had 23 points, seven rebounds and four steals in an 85-81 win over Waterloo East.

West High junior Patrick McCaffery had 32 points and seven rebounds in a 72-35 win over Cedar Rapids Kennedy.

Liberty High freshman Bowen Gryp had 16 points and three rebounds in a 48-46 win over Wapsie Valley.

Clear Creek Amana senior Darius Moore had 28 points and 11 rebounds in an 81-68 loss to Independence.

Regina sophomore Masen Miller had 14 points, six assists and four rebounds in a 73-34 win over Camanche.