By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
SOLON – Basketball players can be separated into two groups when it comes to shooting free throws under pressure.
One group consists of those who welcome the challenge, while the other is filled with those who would prefer that somebody else do it.
Solon center Jacob Coons welcomes the challenge and showed why on Saturday by making two free throws with 11.5 seconds remaining to secure a 67-63 victory over Regina.
“Every time in practice when we have any kind of competition and somebody has to step up and shoot a free throw, he shoots it every time,” said Solon coach Jason Pershing. “He’s pushing dudes aside every time, so there wasn’t really a question.
“I mean, if we had tried a technical, he would shoot it. That’s him. He tells me all the time, he does the little ice water in his veins. So it’s his MO, and I love it.”
Solon led by as many as eight points in the first half and by seven points in the second half, but couldn’t put the Regals away until Coons hit the two free throws.
“You sort of get butterflies in your stomach, but I wasn’t really that nervous,” said Coons, who entered the game shooting 70.3 percent from the free throw line.
Saturday’s game, which was played in a sweltering Solon gymnasium, had special significance for Coons, because as a senior, his days of competing against rival Regina are nearly over.
Coons has been a part of some epic battles against the Regals in both football and basketball.
“You just have to love it,” said Coons, who will sign a national letter of intent with the Iowa football team on Feb. 1. “You just have to love the game, love playing with your teammates.”
Coons needed plenty of help from his teammates to be in position to win the game at the free throw line.
Junior Ben Krutzfeldt provided it from long distance, scoring all 15 of his points on five 3-point baskets. He made back-to-back treys to give Solon its biggest lead in the game at eight points (29-21) midway through the second quarter.
“My teammates were able to get me the ball,” Krutzfeldt said. “We’ve worked all week on a new offense that kind of gets us more shots and we moved the ball around really well. I have to give all the credit to my teammates.”
Solon needed Krutzfeldt’s contribution from 3-point range to keep pace with Regina, which made 10 treys in the game, including four by freshmen point guard Masen Miller.
And though Krutzfeldt still has another year to compete against Regina, he will forever cherish Saturday’s victory, which ended a three-game losing streak against the Regals.
“It really sucks to lose to them,” Krutzfeldt said of Regina. “But when you beat them, you really take it to heart.”
Solon kept pace with Regina’s 3-point attack by making eight of its own.
“We have not been shooting the ball as well,” Pershing said. “But we got in the gym. We did some different things. And it’s just confidence. I told the kids you can’t ever stop shooting. Shoot to shoot. It’s what you do.”
Senior Sterling McIlravy rebounded his own miss and then made a basket to expand Solon’s lead to 63-56 with 1 minute, 14 seconds left to play.
But Regina answered with a 7-2 scoring run, slicing the lead to 65-63 on a basket by Jocoa Kerschen with 16.1 seconds remaining.
Regina didn’t score again, though, and fell to 9-5 on the season, while Solon improved to 8-4 overall.
“The boys might have been overly psyched for the game because we made a lot of mental errors, unforced turnovers, that haunted us,” said Regina coach Stu Ordman. “We didn’t box out well enough. They’re a very good rebounding team.”
Solon made 23-of-50 field-goal attempts and had four of players who scored in double figures.
McIlravy scored 12 points, while Coons and his younger brother, A.J. Coons, finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Kerschen led Regina with 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting from the field. Miller finished with 14 points, with all but two of his points coming on 3-point baskets.
Regina 12 18 14 19 – 63
Solon 15 18 18 16 – 67
Regina (63) – Masen Miller 5-11 0-0 14, Jack Jensen 0-1 0-0 0, Jocoa Kerschen 7-8 3-3 20, Jake Phillips 4-12 1-3 10, Ryne Schooley 2-3 2-2 8, Blake Berns 0-0 2-2 2, Even Brauns 1-2 2-2 4, Zach Seeman 1-3 1-5 3, Sam Stein 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 20-40 13-19 63.
Solon (67) – Jacob Coons 4-7 3-3 11, Ben Krutzfeldt 5-11 0-0 15, Sterling McIlravy 4-5 4-4 12, Luke Ira 1-5 4-4 7, Zach Cusick 2-6 2-2 8, Luke Schaeckenbach 2-4 0-2 4, A.J. Coons 5-11 0-0 10, Andrew Steffens 0-0 0-0 0, Jack Stahle 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 13-15 67.
3-point goals – Regina 10 (Miller 4, Kerschen 3, Schooley 2, Phillips); Solon 8 (Krutzfeldt 5, Cusick 2, Ira). Fouls – Regina 14, Solon 15.