Solon senior Jake CoonsBy Ryan Murken Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Last season Solon limped into the winter break fresh off a 24-point loss to Cedar Rapids Kennedy that punctuated a three-game losing streak.
The holidays will be a lot merrier for the Spartans this year.
Solon (6-1) will bring a five-game winning streak into the two-week holiday break after blasting Keokuk 72-45 in its final game of 2016 on Tuesday at Solon.
“I think there is a huge difference in the kid’s aura this year,” Solon coach Jason Pershing said. “Going into break with five straight Ws, all coming in different facets, we showed we can win in a lot of different ways. I think the guys are excited and I think that’s a big deal.”
Each of the past two seasons quick starts have faded and Solon has entered the December break on losing skids.
Two seasons ago the Spartans lost their final four before the break. Last season it was a three-game skid that ended with the home loss to Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
This season the Spartans started strong and haven’t slowed down.
“It feels a lot better this year for sure,” Solon junior guard Luke Ira said. “We are guarding a lot better than we were last year, we are playing as a team and we are sharing the ball. We don’t really care who scores.”
On Tuesday everyone seemed to get into the scoring act for the Spartans.
Jake Coons scored a game-high 21 points to lead three Solon players in double figures as the Spartans posted a season-high point total.
Ben Krutzfeldt and freshman AJ Coons each had 12 points for Solon and 10 different Spartans scored in the win.
“We started trying to come together as a team before the season,” Jake Coons said. “We wanted to get all the kinks worked out and everybody tried to find their role so we could mesh as a team quicker.”
Solon closed the first quarter on a 14-5 run as Coons basket with nine seconds left put Solon up 20-12 after one quarter.
The Spartans pulled away in the second quarter.
Solon used a 10-0 run to push the lead to 35-17 and led 39-21 at the half after holding Keokuk (0-5) to 26 percent shooting in the first half.
“I challenged them, I just told the I wasn’t happy with how we were guarding and everything for us starts on the defensive end,” Pershing said. “They guarded better and as soon as they guard better, we run our offense better.”
After allowing 17 points in the opening 11 minutes of the game Solon allowed just nine points in an 11-minute span from the middle of the second to the middle of the third quarter while building a 52-26 lead.
“Coach got on us to start defending better,” Coons said. “We had to play harder on defense and then the offense would come and that’s what happened.”
Solon opened the third quarter with a 14-3 run that started with six straight points by Krutzfeldt to push the lead to 52-26.
Solon shot 49 percent from the field through the first three quarters and outscored Keokuk 23 to six at the free throw line in the game.
Keokuk shot 31 percent from the field and finished with 22 turnovers.
“We weren’t really clicking offensively and defensively we were letting them score,” Ira said. “The biggest thing was just defense, we shut them down and that helped us get into a grove on offense.”
Solon opens the 2017 portion of its schedule at Class 3A third-ranked West Delaware on Jan. 6 before hosting Maquoketa and No. 10 Mount Vernon.
“Our kids feel good and they get to go and have a week off and then we are preparing for the best team in our conference,” Pershing said. “It’s a good way to go into this break, that’s for sure.”
Solon 20 19 18 15 – 72
Keokuk 12 9 10 14 – 45
Solon (72) – Ben Krutzfeldt 5-6 1-2 12, Jake Coons 7-13 7-10 21, Jack Stahle 2-5 2-2 6, Sterling McIlravy 2-5 1-2 5, Ethan Yahr 0-1 0-0 0, AJ Coons 3-8 6-6 12, Kurtis Gourley 0-1 2-2 2, Luke Ira 1-2 2-2 4, Luke Schaekenbach 4-6 0-0 8, Andrew Steffens 0-3 1-2 1, Zach Cusick 0-4 1-2 1, Alex Allen 0-1 0-0 0, Team 24-55 23-30 72.
Keokuk (45) – Brendan Plate 4-9 0-2 12, Gavin Thompson 0-1 0-0 0, Damon Wolter 0-10 0-2 0, Eddie Lee 3-5 2-5 10, Ryan Johnson 1-1 1-2 3, Dre Moody 4-12 0-0 9, Nick Huston 0-1 0-0 0, Isaac Dunlap 3-8 3-3 9, Jace Wade 1-3 0-0 2, Alex Wolter 1-3 0-0 2, Team 16-51 6-14 45.
3-point field goals – SOL 1-12 (Krutzfeldt 1-2, J. Coons 0-1, Stahle 0-1, McIlravy 0-1, Yahr 0-1, Ira 0-1, Steffens 0-2, Cusick 0-1, Allen 0-1), KEO 7-18 (Plate 4-7, D. Wolter 0-3, Lee 2-3, Moody 1-3, Wade 0-2). Rebounds – SOL 41 (McIlravy 7), KEO 34 (Dunlap 8). Turnovers – SOL 17, KEO 22. Total fouls – SOL 13, KEO 18. Fouled out – None. Technical fouls – Solon Bench.