SOLON– The Spartans will have a chance for their 11th consecutive district title Thursday when they face Benton Community at Cedar Rapids Prairie High School.
Solon’s boys defeated South Tama 82-36 in a District 10 semifinal Monday, Feb. 24, at Van Horne to set up the showdown with the Bobcats, who came from behind to defeat Clear Creek Amana (CCA) in overtime.
Solon had its own close call with CCA Friday, Feb. 21, in a makeup game against the Clippers in Tiffin. The Spartans edged away with a 68-62 win to end the regular season on a winning note.
Solon also defeated Anamosa 63-52 on the road on Tuesday, Feb. 18.
That gives the Spartans three wins in a row, all away from home, heading into the district championship.
The first, at Anamosa, came on the heels of the Spartans’ home loss to Central DeWitt, in which the Sabers scored on 33 of 34 attempts at the free throw line.
Against Anamosa, Solon was whistled for only 15 fouls and sent the Raiders to the line only 13 times.
The Spartans also overcame their recent second quarter woes, outscoring Anamosa 20-4 to take a 34-22 halftime lead after trailing earlier in the first quarter.
“It was kind of an up-and-down game,” said head coach Brad Randall. “But we took better care of the ball.”
Solon racked up 14 assists on 20 made baskets, led by Emilio Villagrana with six. Villagrana was one of three Spartans in double-figures for scoring with 13, including 3-5 from 3-point range. Leading all scorers was Nick Shelman with 22 points, including a perfect 4-4 from downtown and 6-7 from the free throw line. Austin Miller added 13 points on 5-6 shooting from the field. Jaden Durr added two late free throws to ice the game, Randall said.
As a team, Solon shot 57 percent from the field and 75 percent from the line.
“All in all, it was a pretty good ball game,” Randall said.
Execution took a dip against the Clippers, but the Spartans still managed to pull out the win.
“The first 12 minutes looked terrific,” Randall said. “And then we just let our guard down.”
Solon had a 31-14 lead in the second period, but CCA clawed back to make it 35-27 at the half and then just a four-point margin, 46-42, at the end of the three.
Nursing a two-point lead into the fourth, Solon put six points on the board in about a minute thanks to a pair of free throws and baskets by Shelman and Villagrana. Villagrana scored on a steal and a layup, making it 55-47 with just over five minutes to go.
CCA was able to hit on a pair of 3-pointers and were down just four points, but Durr went to the line for Solon with 6.2 seconds left and knocked down a pair of free throws to preserve the win.
At Van Horne Monday night, the Spartans took a 25-14 lead over South Tama at the end of the first quarter, but the clamps came down on defense in the second.
“Too many points,” Randall told his squad after the initial period. “I told them three times– too many points.”
Solon allowed only 10 total points in the second and third quarters, cruising to the 82-36 win, with reserves entering the game in the third.
“When we play defense like that, we’re a hard team to beat,” Randall said. “We were playing harder and anticipating better.”
The Spartans were called for only 10 fouls in the game, out-rebounded South Tama 34-19 and shot over 50 percent from the field and 86 percent from the line.
Miller led the scoring on 7-8 shooting from the field while Villagrana added 13 points (including 3-4 from the 3-point line), six rebounds, seven assists and six steals. Durr added 12 and was 4-4 at the line.