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New season, new tempo

Solon gallops past Vinton-Shellsburg, 51-33
Vinton-Shellsburg’s basket on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at Solon High School during Solon’s 51-33 season opening win. (photos by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– The Lady Spartans took to the court to start a new season with a different appearance, a different pace, fast transitions and an exciting win over the Vinton-Shellsburg Vikettes on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at Solon High School.
The Lady Spartans’ season opener commenced the 2017-18 season for both Solon and the Vikettes and a new, faster-paced, transition-oriented, full-court game by the Lady Spartans resulted in an eight-point lead at the half and a 51-33 triumph over the Vikettes. The win moved the Spartan ladies to 1-0 for the season.
Solon’s starting lineup for the season opener included juniors Saige Hauer, Erin Kerkhoff, Abby Smith and Gabby Marty and senior Brianna Smith, coached by Head Coach Lisa Bishop and Assistant Coaches Mark Sovers, Danielle Herdliska and Adam Stahle with Managers Emily Troyer and Mady Hess.
The scoring took a bit to develop, as the Spartans missed their first nine field goals either shaking off the ring rust or just finding range. Senior Brianna Smith, however, started the scoring for the Lady Spartans, breaking the dam with a little less than five minutes remaining in the first quarter, and allowing Solon to outscore the Vikettes 13-5 in the first quarter aided by a new full-court pressure defense, reminiscent of the Brad Randall teams of old. Randall sat in attendance and was acknowledged by the veteran voice of the Spartans Don Ellis for his upcoming Hall of Fame induction.
Smith led the team in scoring with 16 points, finishing the first half with 10 to spearhead the 22-14 halftime lead.
The Vikettes matched the Spartans’ nine points of the second quarter and the half ended with a bit of drama as it appeared Abby Smith took a head to the mouth and was sent reeling below the basket. She was escorted by trainers from the floor.
“After a rebound, a girl pivoted and crashed (her) head (in) to (Abby’s) mouth. She ended up getting 10 stitches, she is planning on returning this week!” coach Bishop commented via email. 
The second half of the game saw junior Gabby Marty sparking the team offensively, after getting into foul trouble early in the first half. She scored eight points in just under three minutes of the second half, setting the Vikettes on their heels and building the Spartans’ momentum.
The combination of Smith and Marty added a exclamation point on the Lady Spartans’ tempo metamorphosis as with about three minutes left in the third quarter, Marty extended the Spartan lead to 36-20 and Smith forced her way inside for a layup, pushing the Spartan lead to 18, the largest of the night. The end of the third saw the Spartans leading, 42-23.
Vinton-Shellsburg outscored the Lady Spartans in the final quarter, 10-9, but Coach Bishop used the last few minutes to establish experience for the bench.
“We are trying to still play up-tempo, full-court with fewer girls than normal for that style of play,” Coach Bishop said of the game’s pace. “Especially with girls in foul trouble, leg cramps, and trips to go get stitches.”
Bishop said she was pleased to see how Gabby Marty adjusted to being in foul trouble.
“Her mindset was determined to go out the second half and make an impact, and not let allow her circumstances control her game,” Bishop said. “Brianna Smith showed great leadership by her hard work, enthusiasm, her effort on the (offensive) glass.”
Brianna Smith scored 16 points, six rebounds, deflected two passes, had four assists and stole the ball once in her 32 minutes of play time, while Marty recorded 12 points, had one assist, stole the ball once and pulled down five rebounds in her 33 minutes of play.
Junior Saige Hauer contributed nine points to the Lady Spartan scoring effort, six rebounds, four assists and two steals; sophomore Jenna LaDage added seven points, four rebounds, one assist, one block and a steal; Kerkhoff added four points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals; and Abby Smith was able to score three points, seven rebounds and steal the ball four times before taking the blow to her mouth below the boards. Haley Mechart stole the ball once and pulled down a rebound. Vanessa Milliman had three rebounds and one assist.
The Spartans sank 2-9 three-point shots, courtesy of Brianna Smith and LaDage versus the 3-10 scored by the Vikettes. Solon out-rebounded Vinton-Shellsburg, 34-26, with Hauer responsible for seven of the rebounds, and managed turnovers better than the Vikettes, 18-24. The Spartans recorded only 10 team fouls to 13 by Vinton-Shellsburg.
“It’s always nice to start the season out with a W. That helps set the tone for the remainder of the season,” Bishop said. “We all sense how well the team is playing together. We don’t have the experience we have had in the past but we all recognize how well we are playing as one.”
The Lady Spartans hosted South Tama on Tuesday, Nov. 28, and travel to Marion on Friday, Dec. 1, both competitions share a junior varsity (JV) game starting at 6 p.m. with varsity taking the court at 7:30 p.m. The Washington Demons visit Solon on Saturday, Dec. 2, competing at noon in a JV matchup and then varsity teams meet at 1:30 p.m. at Solon High School.
“This will be the toughest stretch of our season,” Bishop commented regarding the week following the Thanksgiving break. “Our focus will be to continue to play the style we want to play, with some minor adjustments each game. Each team has different strengths that make every night a challenge. I hope to focus more on our game so we continue to get better as the season goes on.”
Team statistics, contained in this article, were provided courtesy of the Solon Lady Spartans’ coaching staff.