SOLON– It was an instant classic.
After several seasons where the Mid-Prairie/Solon doubleheader has been tipped to Solon’s advantage, the Golden Hawks gave the Spartans all they could handle Saturday.
Solon escaped with a 63-62 overtime win, but only after overcoming a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter.
“It was an exciting game,” said head coach Brad Randall. “It was good to come away with a win.”
The Spartans fought from behind for most of the game, including a third quarter run by the Golden Hawks which put the Spartans down by double digits, thanks in part to the 3-point shooting of Mid-Prairie’s Dayton Hall.
But Solon came storming back, sparked by a Jaden Durr 3-pointer as time expired in the third.
The Spartans outscored the Golden Hawks 21-12 in the fourth quarter to force overtime, with Solon winning the extra frame 4-3.
The deciding basket came in the form of a free throw by Ethan Ahern after he was fouled grabbing an offensive rebound with four seconds left. Ahern then got his hand on a Mid-Prairie pass, which he deflected as the overtime period expired.
In the fourth quarter, Randall said, several players hit 3-pointers. “Different guys stepped up,” he said, including Durr, Emilio Villagrana, Nick Shelman, Ahern and Shay Croy.
“It shows a lot of courage to come back like that,” Randall said. “It shows volumes about our kids’ character.”
Austin Miller and Durr had 15 points each to pace the Spartans, with Villagrana adding 11. Ahern and Shelman each added eight, but nine players scored.
The last overtime game Randall could recall was a February 2012 district semifinal against Williamsburg which Solon won 45-42. “Ahern shot free throws down the stretch in that one, too,” he said. “I guess that’s why he’s a three-year starter.”
The win against Mid-Prairie moved Solon to 4-0.
“These games have been challenging,” Randall said of his squad’s start. “We’ve been down and we’ve come back.”
Such was also the case against another longtime rival, Mount Vernon, Tuesday night.
“That wasn’t easy, either,” noted Randall.
Solon spotted the Mustangs a 10-6 first quarter lead before a 21-point second quarter gave the Spartans a 27-20 halftime lead. Solon extended the lead to double-digits, but Mount Vernon whittled the lead back and came within five points in the second half.
“We had chances to pull away,” the coach said, “but we haven’t developed that killer instinct.”
The team ran the floor well and were effective and exciting in transition, he noted.
Miller led the team in scoring with 20 points, including 7-14 from the field and 6-8 from the free throw line. Shelman added 15 points shooting 6-9, while Durr had 10 points.
Durr was the leading rebounder with 12, six of them on the offensive glass. Villagrana had nine assists.
Randall would like to see his team become more consistent– “really solid, possession after possession,” start games better offensively and defend the dribble better.
The Spartans close out the year with two tough road games, scheduled to face 4-0 Central DeWitt Tuesday, and 4-1 Dyersville Beckman Friday, Dec. 20.