Home Court Advantage A Postseason Boost For Surging Spartans

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Jeff Yoder Photo / iagameday.smugmug.com

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

SOLON – What’s the best way to calm the inevitable nerves that come with the opening of postseason play?

Playing at home is a start and a 15-0 first-quarter will help calm the butterflies as well.  

Solon had both in its postseason opener on Monday against Keokuk.

Playing on its home floor, Solon jumped to a 22-5 first-quarter lead and cruised to a 58-31 win over Keokuk in a Class 3A, Substate 5 semifinal.

“I put in a lot of hours in that gym,” Solon senior point guard Ben Krutzfeldt said. “I know what it looks like, I’m very familiar with it and so that definitely plays a big role.”

Monday’s win was the latest in a late season surge that helped the Spartans secure home court advantage for the first two playoff games.

Solon (15-7) has won four straight and six of its last seven games entering the Substate 5 semifinals on Thursday against Fairfield (14-8).

“That’s what you work for the whole season is to play at home in these games and it’s huge,” Pershing said. “We were super proud to have a chance to play at home and we had the body of work. The kids always seem very comfortable at home, everybody plays better typically at home.”

Solon wasted no time putting away Keokuk (4-16) on Monday.

The Spartans rattled off 15 unanswered points in less than three minutes to turn a 3-2 lead into a 18-2 advantage that would never be challenged.

“We really stepped up on defense and stopped them from scoring,” Solon senior Luke Schaekenbach said. “We were a little laxed on some closeouts but overall we played pretty good defense.”

Three seniors provided all the offense during the 15-0 Solon spurt.

Jack Stahle hit a pair of 3-pointers, Luke Ira scored twice on put backs and Krutzfeldt started the run with a 3-pointer and added a layup off a steal.

“There were some butterflies going into the game know it could be our last game but we were ready,” Stahle said. “Playing at home is a big advantage and we took advantage of that.”

Solon pushed the lead to 36-13 at the half and scored the final 11 points of the third quarter to take its biggest lead at 54-21.

The Spartans used its full-court pressure defense to force Keokuk in 27 turnovers many of which turned into transition offensive opportunities.

“Our press that we have been running I think has helped us a lot,” Krutzfeldt said. “It speeds up the other team and it gets our offensive stuff going and then defensively we pick it up too. I think the press definitely helped a lot.”

Sophomore AJ Coons led Solon with 13 points while Ira added 11 and Krutzfeldt had nine.

The Spartans now turn their attention to Fairfield which dispatched Washington 57-36 in the opening on Monday at Solon.

Fairfield brings a 10-game winning streak into Thursday’s semifinal.

“They are big they are talented and they are very disciplined,” Pershing said. “It’s a good matchup for us, it’s going to a challenge.”

After holding Keokuk to 31 points, its second consecutive game holding an opponent to 33 points or less the Spartans face a stiff test against Fairfield.

Austin Simpson, a 6-foot-4 junior leads Fairfield with 11.3 points while Dante Cingire averages 10.7 per game.

“They have some size for sure and we are going to have to try to control that,” Krutzfeldt said. “Our play defensively is really going to dictate that game.”

Solon               22  14  18  4  –  58

Keokuk             5    8    8  10 –  31

Solon (58) – Ben Krutzfeldt 3-6 2-2 9, Luke Schaeckenbach 1-3 1-2 3, AJ Coons 5-9 3-3 13, Cam Miller 1-4 0-0 2, Luke Ira 5-9 0-0 11, Jack Stahle 2-4 0-0 6, Jackson Pipolo 1-4 2-2 4, Carson Yakish 2-7 2-2 6, Clay Gerdin 1-1 0-0 2, Greg Brandt 0-1 0-0 0, Colin Horning 0-2 0-0 0, Alan Milliman 0-0 0-2 0, Alex Allen 1-3 0-0 2, Team 22-53 10-13 58.

Keokuk (31) – Braylon Martinez 1-1 0-0 3, Isaiah Seay 1-6 0-0 2, Gavin Haner 0-1 0-0 0, Eddie Lee 0-0 1-2 1, Tyjai Mueller 2-5 0-0 4, Cory Flax-Solomon 0-1 0-0 0, DreSean Moody 7-9 1-1 15, Alex Wolter 2-4 2-4 6, Team 13-27 4-7 31.

3-point field goals – SOL 4-21 (Krutzfeldt 1-4, Coons 0-3, Miller 0-2, Ira 1-4, Stahle 2-2, Pipolo 0-2, Yakish 0-3, Allen 0-2); KEO 1-8 (Martinez 1-1, Seay 0-4, Mueller 0-2, Flax-Solomon 0-1). Rebounds – SOL 25 (Coons, Ira 4); KEO 23 (Wolter 5). Turnovers – SOL 9; KEO 27. Total fouls – SOL 8; KEO 14. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – None.