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Road wins for Lady Spartans

Junior Taylor Ryan drives in from the outside for a layup, past Bobcat defenders during the 44-42, come-from-behind win by the Lady Spartans over Benton Community on Friday, Jan. 5. (photo by Jeff Hess)

By Jeff Hess
Solon Economist
VAN HORNE– The Solon Lady Spartans ended the week in Van Horne on Friday, Jan. 5, with a second consecutive road win as they exited the court to the traveling crowd’s cheers, following their final moment dribbling away the clock, defeating the Benton Community Bobcats, 44-42.
It was the team’s second win in as many nights, raising their record for the season to 5-7.
The Lady Spartans’ 2018 portion of the season started on the road, in Mount Pleasant, on Thursday, Jan. 4. The Lady Spartans’ starters, Taylor Ryan, Gabby Marty, Brianna Smith, Abby Smith and Erin Kerkhoff stayed in touch with the Panthers at the end of the first quarter trailing, 13-11.
However, the Spartans fell behind by 14 points at the half, 33-19.
Coach Lisa Bishop commented on what changed in the locker room since the New Year. “Our discussion was mainly on communicating and rebounding,” she said. “The girls did a good job of executing what we talked about to the floor.”
In the third quarter, as if taken by a purpose, the Lady Spartans emerged, taking it to Mount Pleasant, more than doubling the Panthers’ score, 14-6.
At the start of the final quarter of play the scoreboard glowed 39-33 and the deficit was down to six.
The Lady Spartans rose to the challenge, shutting out Mount Pleasant in the fourth period and putting up 12 points to slay the Panthers, 45-39, as the final moments ticked away.
Eliminating turnovers was a main focus over break, Bishop said.
“We spent more time doing fundamental drills and going against more defensive players” she explained. “We still need to work on our decision-making in our passing and, although it has improved, we still need to make a commitment to value every possession.”
Brianna Smith led the Spartans in scoring at Mount Pleasant with 14 points, shooting 87 percent (7-8) inside the arc, with an assist, four rebounds, and two steals. Ryan added 12 points with an assist, a rebound and a steal; Marty battled inside contributing nine points with an assist, a blocked shot, and 13 rebounds; Kerkhoff and Jenna LaDage each added four points while Kerkhoff recorded two assists, three rebounds and three steals and LaDage had an assist; Saige Hauer add two points with an assist and a rebound; and Abby Smith pulled down five rebounds.
“The first half we struggled to defensive rebound out of our zone and match up to their shooters,” Bishop said. “We made some changes (in) the second half to our game plan which threw them off and we forced them to take bad shots and we did a great job on the boards.”
The team shared the ball well in the second half, she added.
“One thing that makes this team special is that no one cares about individual success,” Bishop said. “This was the first time this season we were the ones behind and came back to win. That is an achievement our team is very proud of.”
The victory offered the promise of good things for the Spartan faithful who followed the ladies to Van Horne on Friday, Dec. 5.
The Bobcats built to a 6-2 lead approximately three minutes into the game and stretched it to 12-6 with about two minutes remaining as LaDage put up two to close the gap. The first quarter ended with Benton leading, 16-8.
Brianna Smith assumed the lightning rod of inspiration role for Solon, draining a 3-pointer with a little over seven minutes remaining in the second quarter to start the Lady Spartans’ scoring as Solon closed, 16-11. Benton went on a tear, pushing out to a 21-11 lead, before Ryan took consecutive drives up the court for layups. It was enough to scare the Bobcats into calling a timeout, with the margin down to six. Brianna Smith made the score 24-17 with 3:25 remaining and Ryan worked her magic with a drive for a basket to close the half and make the score 26-21, keeping the Spartans close.
Benton pushed out to a 29-21 lead to start the third and Marty sparked the scoring for the Spartans, putting in a bucket to close the Spartans to 29-23. The Bobcats answered, making it 32-23, inspiring the Lady Spartans to an almost four-minute rally where they held the Bobcats scoreless and closed to trail by just three, 32-29, with a little under 3:30 remaining in the third.
By the end of the third, the Lady Spartans were stalking the Bobcats, 35-31.
A Gabby Marty put-back closed the gap to 38-35, and with just under five minutes remaining in the game, Ryan responded to a Benton bucket, sinking a 3-point shot to make it 40-38.
Saige Hauer tied the game with a bucket, making it 40 all, with a little more than 3:15 remaining in the game. Marty put in a bucket under the basket to push the Spartans out front, 42-40, for the first time in the game.
LaDage drew a foul driving to the basket and sank two free throws to extend Solon’s lead to 44-40 and Brianna Smith knocked Benton’s up-court pass out of bounds forcing the Bobcats to call a time out with a little over 19 seconds remaining.
Following the time-out, Benton was able to score, but Solon was able to keep away from a foul long enough for the time to expire and best the Bobcats, 44-42.
“A month ago, we would have continued to show the effort but mentally we beat ourselves,” Bishop said. “I was proud of our girls’ defensive execution during those last minutes, our composure during the last couple of minutes.”
Ryan led the Lady Spartans’ scoring against Benton with 12 points, shooting 2-10 from beyond the arc, with an assist and three rebounds. Marty added nine points with eight rebounds and a steal and she was able to block a shot; Brianna Smith contributed eight points and pulled down three rebounds and stole the ball twice; Hauer delivered six points and had two rebounds; Kerkhoff provided five points with an assist and three rebounds; LaDage scored four points and grabbed two rebounds; and Abby Smith recorded an assist, pulled down three rebounds and stole the ball once.
“I think distributed scoring is more to this team’s character,” Bishop said. “They don’t care who gets the points, they would rather do whatever the team needs that night. Whether it’s scoring, rebounds, or even the qualities that don’t show up on the stat sheet.”
When pressed for comment regarding the limited number of 3-point attempts Friday night, Coach Bishop responded, “This was by design. We would like to have more of an inside-outside game because I think we’ve got some talent in both areas that we need to use those strengths, as well. As we continue to get better throughout the year, we are trying to see what works best against what type of defense. Our goal of this game was to get more paint touches.”
Solon hosted Maquoketa on Tuesday, Jan. 9, and welcomes Mount Vernon on Friday, Jan. 12, with a 6 p.m. game time. Central Clinton travels from DeWitt to challenge the Lady Spartans at home on Tuesday, Jan. 16, the team hits the road to visit Western Dubuque in Epworth on Friday, Jan. 19.
Solon hosts Anamosa on Tuesday, Jan. 23, then travels to play Beckman in Dyersville on Friday, Jan. 26. Tuesday, Jan. 30, is the Lady Spartans’ last regular season home game and Senior Night as they host West Delaware from Manchester. The last two regular season games are a road tour, stopping in Maquoketa on Friday, Feb. 2, and ending in Mount Vernon on Tuesday, Feb. 6. All games, unless previously noted, have a 7:30 p.m. tip off and are preceded by junior varsity game at 6 p.m.
Coach Bishop indicated the work wasn’t done as the upcoming schedule would present some challenges.
“Challenges will be to play against teams that press, and they will make us handle the ball,” she said. “They also like to push tempo, so we just need to make sure we play at the pace we want to play at!”