Your Prep Sports
The opening day of the 2023 girls state basketball tournament is still 10 days away.
However the first eight spots at the state tournament schedule to run February 27 – March 4 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines are up for grabs on Saturday.
The Class 3A field will be set on Saturday with eight regional finals schedule across the state.
Long-time rivals Solon and Mount Vernon will meet for the third time this season in the 3A, Region 2 title game.
Here is a quick look at the matchup set for 7 p.m. in Solon.
Class 3A, Region 2
No. 11 Mount Vernon (16-7) at No. 2 Solon (21-2)
When: Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where: Solon High School
Statistical leaders: Solon – Callie Levin, 5-9, Jr., 18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 3.9 steals. Hailey Miller, 5-7, Jr., 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2 steals.
Mount Vernon – Peyton Simpson, 5-6, Jr., 10 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists. Chloe Meester, 6-2, Soph., 9.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.5 blocks.
About the Spartans: When seeking to snap a nearly two-decade state tournament drought what better way to do it than with a win over your arch rival?
That is the scenario for Solon which is a three-game season sweep of long-time rival Mount Vernon away from its first state tournament trip since 2006.
Solon enters the regional final playing as well as any team in Class 3A and perhaps as well as any team in the state.
The Spartans have won seven straight games and are averaging 64 points per game during that win streak that includes the second win of the season over Mount Vernon at Solon on February 3.
Solon is unbeaten against in-class competition this season with its lone two losses coming to top-10 ranked 4A opponents Clear Creek Amana and North Scott.
The Spartans have a star in Iowa commit Callie Levin, who is among the top players in the state and averages 18.9 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.
However, the story for the Spartans this season has been the balance behind Levin, as four players average between 5.3 and 10.8 points per game.
Junior Hailey Miller is averaging 10.8 points, Kobi Lietz adds 7.9 and Mia Stahle 7.
About the Mustangs: Mount Vernon was a model of consistency for more than a decade winning at least 15 games every season from 2007 to 2018.
The Mustangs won just 16 games combined in three seasons from 2019 to 2021 and after winning its first winning season since 2008 last year has returned to prominence this season.
Mount Vernon is chasing its first trip to state since making the second of back-to-back appearances in 2016.
The Mustangs have won four straight and seven of their last eight games with the lone loss during that stretch a 50-49 setback at Solon.
Mount Vernon edged Davenport Assumption 46-39 in the regional semifinals.
Like Solon the Mustangs rely on balance offensively with three players averaging between 9 and 10 points per game led by junior Peyton Simpson with 10.
Sophomore post Chloe Meester is a game-changer on the defensive end with 2.5 blocked shots per game to go with 9.1 points and 5.5 rebounds while senior Lilly See adds 9 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Who to watch: Solon – Junior point guard Callie Levin leads Solon in scoring at 18.9 points per game and has averaged 22 during a pair of regular season meetings with Mount Vernon.
A key for Mount Vernon in pulling an upset and avoiding a season sweep at the hands of the Spartans will be to keep Levin off the free throw line.
The attacking point guard is averaging nearly five free throw attempts per game on the season and shooting 76 percent from the line.
Levin has made all 15 of her free throw attempts against Mount Vernon this season going 13-for-13 in the Solon win in Mount Vernon on January 17.
Mount Vernon – At 6-foot-2, sophomore center Chloe Meester is a matchup problem for just about every team on the Mustang schedule.
Meester has an especially advantageous matchup against a Solon squad without a player on its roster over 5-foot-9.
In the two meetings with Solon this season Meester averaged 18 points and 5.5 rebounds per game including a 20-pound, 5-rebound effort in the first meeting in Mount Vernon.
Meester has been a focal point of the offensive game plan for Mount Vernon in the first two meetings with Solon, attempting 25 of the Mustangs’ 70 field goal attempts in those games.
The Mustangs will likely attempt to pound the ball into Meester in the low block again in the third meeting between the two teams.
What to watch: Between Meester and 6-foot, junior Brynley Rasmussen Mount Vernon has front court height that Solon simply can not match.
However, stopping the Mustang post players is as much about defending the ball as it is about defending the players in the paint and that is something Solon does extremely well.
Solon forced 35 turnovers in the two games with Mount Vernon this season and will need another strong defensive performance on the perimeter on Saturday.
Mount Vernon has committed more than 100 more turnovers than Solon this season (377 – 276) and is averaging better than 16 turnovers per game.
Look for Solon’s guards to pressure the ball in their half court defense to make it more challenging to feed the post.
The Breakdown: Everyone knows the saying – it’s hard to beat a team three times.
In this series between rivals winning three in a row has been common.
Mount Vernon won a staggering 18 straight over Solon from 2010 to 2019 before Solon ended that streak with a 33-17 win over the Mustangs on January 17 of 2020.
Mount Vernon hasn’t won again the series since.
The 50-49 win for Solon over the Mustangs earlier this month was the eighth in a row for Solon which has held Mount Vernon to just 40 points per game during that eight-game winning streak.
Mount Vernon scored 50 and 49 points in the two regular season losses to Solon which is right at its season average of 50.7.
Expect another game in the 40s or low 50s tonight in what feels like a defensive dogfight in what should be a charged environment.