SOLON– Three tough games.
Three points difference.
Three great wins.
The Solon boys took the best shots Beckman, West Branch and Williamsburg could give, and left the court standing each time last week.
The Spartans went to the wire in each game (and overtime against West Branch), winning by 3 points in each contest with eerily similar scores.
Solon defeated Beckman 48-45 in the last home game of the regular season last Tuesday (Feb. 5), then went on the road for back-to-back games at West Branch (50-47 OT) and Williamsburg (48-45).
“We’ve come a long way with playing under pressure, playing with courage and hitting our free throws when we need to,” noted Solon head coach Brad Randall.
In each game, Solon was outscored in the first quarter and had to claw back.
Beckman held a 6-point lead against the Spartans going into the fourth quarter of a very physical game that sent Solon to the free throw line 31 times (converting 18).
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Spartans were able to impose their will, outscoring Beckman 19-10 in the final frame.
Senior posts Ryan Kunkel and Joe Weeks continued to power the Spartans down low. Kunkel scored 14 points and Weeks 11, while Emilio Villagrana added 8. Kunkel had five rebounds and four blocks. Ethan Ahern had four rebounds and two crucial free throws near the end of the game.
With Villagrana sidelined by a concussion received against Beckman, Solon received contributions from a host of players at West Branch Thursday night.
Kunkel dominated with seven blocks and 12 rebounds (six offensive) while Weeks and Ahern were the leading scorers with 10 each. But six Spartans scored at least 6 points.
Solon again lagged behind early, but trailed by only 2 points at half and had a 1-point margin going into the fourth. Ahern drew the assignment of shutting down West Branch’s Rylan Murry, and timely 3-pointers came from Rory Siddell, Ahern and Austin M. Miller.
At Williamsburg the next night, Solon fell behind again in the first quarter, this time by 7 points, but stormed back and although the Spartans trailed at the half, the momentum was definitely swinging.
Kunkel had another lights out game, scoring 17 points on 5-5 shooting from the field and 7-7 from the line to go with six rebounds and eight blocked shots. Joe Weeks added 13 points, going 6-8 from the field.
“Those three games took about every ounce of energy they had, and they won them,” Randall noted. “Ordinary teams aren’t able to do that.”
The Spartans have one more regular season opponent, and that’s undefeated Western Dubuque. Solon travels to Epworth Tuesday, Feb. 12, and will have almost a week after that to prepare for the first round of the postseason. Solon will host Washington Monday, Feb. 18, in the Class 3A Substate 5 District 10 bracket, and with a win would move forward for a Thursday, Feb. 21 matchup at Washington against either Keokuk or Fairfield.