Breaking Down the Class 3A Boys Basketball Substate Final Between Solon and Newton
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The field for the Class 3A state tournament is almost set.
Seven teams have already secured spots at the 3A state tournament that is schedule to get underway on March 7 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The final spot is up for grabs on Tuesday in Oskaloosa where Newton and Solon will meet in the Substate 6 title game.
Before the ball is tipped on Tuesday evening here is quick breakdown of the final 3A substate final.
Class 3A, Substate 6
Solon (18-5) vs. No. 6 Newton (16-6)
When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Oskaloosa High School
Statistical leaders: Solon – Jake Benzing, 6-3, Jr., 17.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals. Vince Steinbrech, 6-2, Jr., 9.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists.
Newton – Cole Plowman, 6-5, Sr., 14.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3 blocked shots. Brody Bauer, 6-2, Sr., 12.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists.
About the Spartans: Solon returns to the substate title game for the third consecutive season after dropping substate finals to Monticello in 2021 and Central DeWitt last season.
The Spartans will be looking to reverse that substate finale losing streak and return to the state tournament for the first time since 2016.
Solon enters playing its best basketball of the season, riding a nine-game winning streak that includes a 49-36 win at Mount Pleasant in the substate semifinals on Thursday.
Since back-to-back losses to North Polk and Marion in January the Spartans have outscored opponents by an average of 15.8 points per game in nine consecutive wins.
Junior Jake Benzing is the only Spartan scoring in double figures averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game but five other Solon players average better than 5.5 per game.
Junior Vince Steinbrech is averaging 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and senior Sean Stahle is adding 7.8 points and a team-high 3.1 assists per game.
Senior Oaken Foster averages 5.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.
About the Cardinals: It has been a steady climb back to the brink of a state tournament return for Newton.
Newton last reached the state tournament in 2017, when a 19-win season ended with a loss to eventual state champion West High in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Since that quarterfinal loss it has been a long and steady climb back to the substate title game.
A winless 2018-2019 season was followed by seasons of seven and nine wins before the Cardinals went 13-11 last season falling to eventual state champion Dallas Center-Grimes in a substate title game.
Newton is back in the substate title game on Tuesday seeking the 10th state tournament trip in program history.
Five of the six losses for Newton this season have come to teams ranked in the top six in their respective class.
Newton has two losses each to 4A fifth-ranked Indianola and 4A sixth-ranked Norwalk and its only loss in its last five games is a 10-point loss to 3A top-ranked Bondurant-Farrar.
The Cardinals also have a pair of regular season wins over 2A state qualifier Pella Christian.
Newton advanced to the substate 6 title game with a 70-56 win over Oskaloosa in the opening round and a 72-52 win over Fairfield in the semifinals.
Three seniors are scoring in double figures for the Cardinals led by Cole Plowman with 14.7 points per game.
Brody Bauer is averaging 12.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while Jake Ingle is averaging 10.6 points and 4.3 assists per game.
Who to watch: Solon – Jake Benzing has been the unquestioned go-to offensive weapon for Solon all season and the junior guard has delivered.
Benzing is averaging a team-high 17.7 points per game while shooting 52 percent from the floor including 46 percent from 3-point range.
As Solon has surged down the stretch, winning nine straight games entering Tuesday’s 3A, Substate 6 title game, it is no surprise that Benzing has been at his best.
Benzing is averaging 18.7 points per game during the Spartans’ current winning streak and is shooting 53 percent from the field over that span.
The 6-foot-3 guard has scored at least 11 points in all nine games and has four games with over 20 points in the last nine.
Newton – On a Newton squad with three seniors averaging in double figures it has been senior Cole Plowman that has been the leader for the Cardinals.
Plowman leads Newton in scoring at 14.7 points per game and rebounding at 7.2 per game and has scored in double figures in 14 of the last 18 games with eight 20-point efforts in that span.
The 6-foot-5 senior has been efficient on the offensive end, shooting 62 percent from the field including 38 percent from 3-point range (17-of-45) and is a 73 percent free throw shooter.
Production from Plowman has been vital to the Cardinals success this season averaging 16 points and 7.7 rebounds in 16 wins while managing just 9.1 points and six rebounds per game in six losses.
What to watch: Newton has been among the best defensive teams in Class 3A this season ranking fifth in points allowed at 49.8 per game.
An area where Solon has been solid offensive this season is at the free throw line.
Solon has been good at getting to the line, ranking 15th in 3A with 15.5 attempts per game, but has been excellent at cashing in ranking second in free throw percentage at 73 percent and fourth in free throw makes per game at 11.3.
In what is expected to be a close game free throws will matter and Solon has been among the best at the line all season.
Benzing (84%), Steinbrech (79%) and Cole Buffington (88%) all shoot better than 75 percent from the line for Solon which is 23-of-29 at the free throw line in two substate wins.
Newton is allowing opponents to shoot 15 free throws per game while averaging 11.1 trips to the line.
Keep an eye on the free throw numbers in what could be a one or two possession game.
The Breakdown: A pair of similar teams statistically each seeking to end state tournament droughts after losing in substate finals last season.
Solon has lost in the substate title game each of the past two seasons and is seeking its first trip to state since 2016 while Newton lost to eventual champion Dallas Center-Grimes in a substate final a year ago and is chasing its first state tournament appearance since 2017.
The 6-foot-5 Plowman presents an intriguing matchup for Solon in the paint on both ends of the floor.
The senior averages a team-high 14.7 points per game and leads Class 3A with 3 blocked shots per game.
Jake Benzing has been excellent down the stretch for Solon which enters on a nine-game winning streak but the Spartans will need someone else to step up offensively on Tuesday.
Junior Vince Steinbrech had a team-high 13 points in a substate semifinal win at Mount Pleasant on Thursday and is averaging 10.7 points per game over the last nine games.
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