Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Winter weather causing changes to the schedule has become an all too familiar occurrence for area basketball teams over the last few weeks.
Solon managed to beat the latest snow storm by squeezing in a WAMAC East Division makeup game with Marion on Monday afternoon but the Spartans couldn’t avoid a different frustrating trend this season, failing to close out games.
The Spartans led a fourth-quarter lead slip away for the second game in a row falling to Marion 68-56.
Solon dropped to 8-11 on the season with the loss while Marion moved to 13-5 with its fourth consecutive win.
“We are so dang close,” Solon coach Jason Pershing said. “We are so close in so many games, we are close to winning about 15 games and it’s all things we can control that’s the beauty of it.”
Solon led 2A eighth-ranked Regina by five points entering the fourth quarter on Saturday but couldn’t close out the game in a 60-55 loss.
It was a similar scene on Monday as a 41-36 Solon lead evaporated in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.
“I feel like down the stretch we just have to make a few more plays,” Solon junior AJ Coons said. “I think we got passive a little bit at the end of games and it makes it tougher on us and we take our foot off the gas.”
The two teams were virtually even through the first 20 minutes.
Neither team led by more than three points in a first half that was tied at 12 after one quarter and even at 26 at halftime.
Solon snapped a 34-all tie with a 7-0 run in the third quarter, taking its biggest lead at 41-34 on a Coons free throw with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.
Marion needed less than two minutes to erase the lead.
The Indians opened the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run and took the lead for good a Jaffer Murphy 3-pointer with 6:01 left.
Solon went more than three minutes without a field goal to start the fourth quarter.
The Spartans scoring just one point in the first 3:17 before Coons hit a 3-pointer that pulled Solon to within two at 47-45.
“We have to learn to trust our offense and run our offense and we can’t just run it for three quarters,” Pershing said. “We ran it for three quarters and we had a six or eight-point lead.
Solon trailed just 52-49 after a pair of free throws by Coons with 3:17 left but Marion answered with an 8-2 run fueled by six points from Murphy.
Murphy entered averaging 8.5 points per game but scored 13 of his team-high 20 points in the fourth quarter to help secure the win.
“It’s the tale of our season, we go away from running an offense and that affects how we defend because we are taking early shots or we turn it over and we are scrambling on defense,” Pershing said. “The lack of flow on offense leads to us not trusting on defense or being a step late. It’s all predicated of just trusting the offense that has got you the lead.”
It has been a roller coaster season for the Spartans who started 1-5 but won six of their next seven to improve to 7-6.
Since then Solon has lost five of six.
Despite the recent losses the Spartans aren’t panicking with the postseason just a week away.
“We started off a little slow but then I thought we played really well in the middle of the season,” Sophomore David Bluder said. “We just have to keep learning and keep improving these last few weeks.”
Bluder is one of the reasons the Spartans believe they are poised to play their best basketball over the next week.
The sophomore had 16 points on Monday on the heels of a 17-point, seven-rebound outing against Clear Creek Amana on Friday.
“My teammates were getting me the ball and I hit some shots,” Bluder said. “I’m getting more confident, more comfortable in my role all the time.”
Coons had a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds on Monday and like Bluder seems to be getting into a groove offensively.
We still have a week of preparation before DeWitt, a team we have played a couple of times, we know what they do and we know what we do,” Coons said. “I think we are close to turning the corner.”
Solon opens postseason play on Monday against Central DeWitt at 6:30 p.m. in Maquoketa.
The two WAMAC East rivals split a pair of regular season games taking turns at winning on the opponents home court.
Solon won the most recent meeting 72-61 in DeWitt on January 15.
“We still have a week of preparation before DeWitt, a team we have played a couple of times, we know what they do and we know what we do,” Coons said. “I think we are close to turning the corner.”
Solon (56) – Carson Yakish 2-7 0-0 5, AJ Coons 7-17 3-4 20, Ben Cusick 1-1 0-0 2, Carson Shive 2-3 5-6 9, Cam Miller 0-6 0-0 0, David Bluder 5-9 4-6 16, Clay Gerdin 2-2 0-1 4, Totals 19-45 12-17 56.
Marion (68) – Matthew Brase 2-6 0-0 6, Jaffer Murphy 6-8 7-10 20, Austin Prier 0-1 0-0 0, Connor Whalen 3-6 0-0 6, Owen Puk 1-3 0-0 2, Gage Franck 1-5 1-2 3, Trevor Paulsen 4-6 4-6 12, Will Henricksen 4-11 5-6 14, Mason Rahe 2-4 0-0 5, Brandon Whitson 0-1 0-0 0, Totals 23-51 17-26 68.
3-point field goals – SOL 6-22 (Yakish 1-5, Coons 3-8, Shive 0-1, Miller 0-5, Bluder 2-3), MAR 5-21 (Brase 2-5, Murphy 1-3, Prier 0-1, Whalen 0-1, Franck 0-3, Henricksen 1-4, Rahe 1-2). Rebounds – SOL 25 (Coons 7), MAR 37 (Paulsen 11). Turnovers – SOL 9, MAR 10. Total fouls – SOL 24, MAR 15. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – MAR (Rahe).