By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
Starting the season strong hasn’t been a problem for Solon under head coach Jason Pershing.
After a win over West Dubuque on Friday, Solon has opened the season 3-1 or better in each of Pershing’s three seasons leading the program.
The challenge for the Spartans the past two seasons has been sustaining that success.
Solon started 3-1 in Pershing’s first season and raced to a 4-0 start last season but both seasons ended with 10 wins.
Pershing hasn’t spent time much time contemplating what happened following the fast start the past two seasons.
The third-year coach does believe he learned something from those seasons on how to build on this season’s 3-1 start.
“I haven’t even entertained it really,” Pershing said of looking back at what happened after the quick starts the past two seasons. “The one thing that I have thought about when it comes to how do we continue this instead of slowing down is just not worrying about other teams so much and concentrating more on the things that we can do to keep us rolling.”
Last year Solon lost 14 of its final 17 regular season games following its 4-0 start.
Solon regrouped in time to win three consecutive postseason games to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2010.
The momentum from that strong finish along with three returning starters have helped the Spartans get off to another strong start.
Solon is 3-1 with the lone loss a 74-69 overtime setback to Center Point-Urbana.
“Having the end of the year success and then having the guys returning that we did our summer and fall were by the far the best since I have been here,” Pershing said. “It’s been a huge, huge difference. The guys are hungry, they are excited and that’s been huge.”
Through four games Pershing has the most balanced team he has had in three seasons at Solon.
Six Spartans are averaging between seven and 12 points per game and six players are averaging more than three rebounds per contest.
Junior Luke Ira leads the way averaging 12 points per game while shooting 56 percent from 3-point range.
Freshman AJ Coons is the only other Solon player in double figures averaging 10.8 points per game.
Seniors Jake Coons (9.3), Sterling McIlravy (9) and Zach Cusick (7.8) all average along with junior Ben Krutzfeldt (8.8) all average better than seven points per game.
McIlravy leads the Spartans with 7.5 rebounds per game while Krutzfeldt is averaging a team-high 6.8 assists per game.
“There is just a ton of leadership,” Pershing said. “Jake Coons has just been an absolutely amazing leader and then Ben and Luke were there last year and really soaked a lot up. It’s really been player led and that has helped us as well.”
Solon wraps up its December schedule with games against WAMAC east division foes Anamosa and Dyersville Beckman before hosting Keokuk in a non-conference contest on Dec. 20.
Last year the Spartans entered the holiday break on a four-game losing skid.
This year Pershing is simplifying things as he attempts to reverse that pre-holiday trend of the past two seasons.
“Last year I felt myself diving into scouting reports and what other teams did and then all of a sudden it just takes the focus off of some of the things that we have control over,” Pershing said. “I’m hoping to make the game a little bit easier on our guys this year. We’ve put in less offense, less out of bounds plays and just really tried to work at three things and be really, really good at those three things.
Nationally Ranked: West High moved up one spot to No. 19 in the MaxPreps Top-25 national rankings this week.
Sierra Canyon (Calif.) is number one in the MaxPrep rankings that
Top Performances: Regina junior Jocoa Kerschen had 17 points, four rebounds and three steals in 66-33 win over Mid-Prairie.
West Branch senior Cooper Kabela had 30 points, seven rebounds and five steals in a 65-50 win over Tipton.
Clear Creek Amana senior Tate Thomsen 17 points and three rebounds in a 65-54 loss to Benton Community.
City High sophomore Antonio Turner had 15 points in a 61-43 loss to Cedar Falls.
Solon junior Ben Krutzfeldt had 16 points, seven assists and three steals in 71-64 win over Central DeWitt.