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Girls win senior sendoff

Lady Spartans break losing streak, 49-40, over West Delaware
Senior night starting lineup, from left to right, Junior Gabby Marty and seniors Brianna Smith, Heather Vance, Madysen Hess and Sam Miller. (Not pictured, Hailey Denny). (photo by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– The Lady Spartans sent off their seniors with a win, to accompany the special recognition prior to the game, on Senior Night Tuesday, Jan. 30, defeating the West Delaware Hawks, 49-40, on the home hardwood.
The Friday, Feb. 2, game was closely contested and one of Solon’s best games for valuing the ball all season, but the Lady Spartans fell short in a loss to Maquoketa on the road, 56-46.
Tuesday’s game was Senior Night, recognizing the senior Lady Spartan team members, in conjunction with Lakeview Night at the ballgame, put together by current activities director Zach Wigle and the athletic department, to fill the stands with Lakeview children and cultivate further interest in athletics in the district. Wigle emceed a host of games, filling the time between quarters and the half, challenging the kids’ putting prowess and involving them in a shoe search much to the delight of those in attendance.
Announced by the evening’s play caller, Don Ellis, the season’s seniors, riddled much of this season with injury and illness, were recognized by all in attendance following the junior varsity game, prior to the start of the varsity action. Ellis announced the seniors, Hailey Denny, daughter of Amy Marshall and Joe Denny; Madysen Hess, daughter of Jeff and Bridget Hess; Sam Miller, daughter of Brian and Jen Miller; Heather Vance, daughter of Marc and Amy Vance; and Brianna Smith, daughter of Pat and Michelle Smith.
In typical Ellis fashion, the announcements were not simply just the names and parents, it included charming tales of locker room exploits and team-building exercise memories along with advice for the Lakeview students including, “Try not to get injured,” courtesy of Hess; “Be thankful for all your coaches, and of course have fun,” from Denny; “Always listen to your coaches and parents because they are always right,” provided by Miller; “Always find something to smile about,” offered by Smith; and Vance advised, “Always work hard and keep your chin up, but not so high that your nose is in the air because you might fall backwards. Stay humble.”
“This class has shown me what it’s like to persevere,” Coach Lisa Bishop commented. “It would have been very easy for each of them to decide not to overcome their adversity with injuries and sickness. But each of them stuck it out because it means a lot to them to be a part of this team.” 
She allowed the seniors to pay homage to the Lakeview students in attendance by tossing T-shirts into the throng of children as the starting lineup was introduced, junior Gabby Marty, Vance, Smith, Miller and Hess; the only missing senior from the starting lineup was Denny, still nursing an injury.
The Lakeview children were invited to the court to offer up the Pledge of Allegiance along with the Lakeview Pledge, Carl Richey sung the national anthem, the seniors along with Marty were all smiles as they took the court, and the tip off fell into Hawks hands, followed by a whistle, and Hess was replaced with Erin Kerkhoff.
Marty put the Lady Spartans out 2-0 with a little more than 40 ticks gone and the clock glowed 5:55 before West Delaware tied things at 2-2. Almost 30 seconds later, the Hawks were ahead by five, 7-2. With 3:30 remaining in the first, Jenna LaDage put Solon out 8-7. The Hawks reclaimed the lead 30 seconds later, 9-8. A LaDage layup placed Solon on top, 10-9, with a little more than 23 seconds remaining. The quarter ended with the same score.
Saige Hauer found her first points of the game 1:15 into the second quarter putting Solon up 12-11, and Taylor Ryan added two more 30 seconds later. The rally by the Lady Spartans generated a 17-11 lead with less than three minutes showing on the clock following a deuce from Brianna Smith, in the paint, and Abby Smith made it 19-11 45 seconds later. The Hawks put their first points of the quarter to the board, 19-13, with 1:29 remaining in the half, and Brianna Smith retaliated 27 seconds later to push the Spartan score past 20, for a 21-13 lead. The Hawks added two to make it 21-15 at the half.
Following halftime, West Delaware started the third quarter with a 3-pointer a minute in. Abby Smith put up a jump shot for the Spartans, drawing a foul and a pair of free throws made it 25-18 with 6:40 remaining in the third. Ten seconds later, the Hawks made it a five-point game again. A jump shot in the paint three minutes later by Brianna Smith placed the Lady Spartans further ahead, 31-22, although West Delaware responded a little more than 12 seconds later. Following a steal by West Delaware, the Hawks closed to within three, 31-28. Ryan responded, in kind, with her own steal and a quick dash put the Spartans up, 33-28. Thirty seconds later, with a near repeat performance, Ryan sprinted down the court, after being fed the ball, and put in another layup for the 35-28 lead. Abby Smith made it 37-28 with 30 ticks before the fourth quarter.
The final quarter started with Abby Smith adding two more points 15 seconds in for the Spartans. Free throws by the Hawks closed the difference to nine, 39-30, with 3:57 remaining in the game. Two points from the Hawks made it 39-32 with 3:39 remaining Things started to get physical as Solon’s Brianna Smith and West Delaware’s Kendra Offerman went crashing and somersaulting to the floor scrambling for a loose ball with a little over three minutes left in the game. Solon maintained a 43-35 lead with a minute on the clock following a layup stormed in by Ryan. Fifteen seconds later, LaDage drew a foul and added one on a free throw to make the score 45-35. A 3-pointer by the Hawks with 31.8 remaining had the West Delaware fans in attendance thinking upset. The belief was only augmented by a deuce by West Delaware’s Abby McGrane, to make it 45-40 with 24.5 seconds left in the game. Another fast break by Ryan on the ensuing possession took a wrong turn into the Hawks’ Lauren Collier, sending Ryan flying to the floor.
Ryan sank her two free throws to make it 47-40. The Hawks took the ball toward their basket and tossed up a shot from outside the arc, knocked out on the rebound by Abby Smith and Marty to an awaiting Brianna Smith who bolted up the court and attempted to dribble out the remaining moments, only to draw a foul with 1.9 remaining. As Brianna Smith stepped to the foul line and sank the first of two, the horn sounded and Smith literally leaped with joy as her fellow seniors subbed in, rejoining her on the court. Smith sank the second for the final score, 49-40, and lined up with her teammates as the Hawks rolled the ball in and attempted a half-court shot at the horn, to no avail.
The Lady Spartans ran to the their bench, slapping high-fives, and even embracing in celebration of ending the streak of six losses.
“Highlights on Senior Night were definitely seeing most of the senior girls starting and ending the game. I also loved seeing us being tough together! We have been showing (so) much growth (in) our mindset when pressure comes and (in) keeping our composure,” Coach Bishop said of the Senior Night win.
Ryan’s 12 points led Solon in scoring, with one assist and a steal. Brianna Smith scored 11 points with three assists, four rebounds and a steal; Abby Smith put up eight points for the Lady Spartans with an assist and six rebounds; Marty and LaDage each scored six points, Marty had an assist, a block, eight rebounds and four steals; Kerkhoff collected three points with an assist, two rebounds and two steals; and Saige Hauer had two points and six rebounds. Miller and Vance each pulled down a rebound.
The Lady Spartans kept turnovers to 18 during the win on the home hardwood.
Coach Bishop was pleased with the victory.
“They played great on Tuesday which I think is credit to the senior class that each player was playing for them and wanted to do everything possible for them to end their career with the victory on their home court,” she said.
On Friday, Feb. 2, the Lady Spartans played in the first of two remaining regular season road games at Maquoketa, and although it resulted in a loss, turnovers were kept in check and Solon did a better job of handling the ball.
The first quarter saw the Lady Spartans take a tentative lead, outscoring the Cardinals, 12-11.
In the second quarter, both teams scored a dead heat with Solon leading at the horn, 22-21. The third quarter though, the Spartans stumbled, outscored by the Cardinals 14-7 to trail 35-29 entering the fourth. The final quarter saw the Maquoketa Cardinals outscore the Lady Spartans, 21-17, allowing them to triumph, 56-46.
The Lady Spartans committed the least number of turnovers they had all season with just 13 in the entire game.
“On Friday, we played great team ball, only had 13 (turnovers) which is a season low for us and, as always, fought hard until the end,” Bishop said of the effort. “We are peaking at the right time!”
Solon was led in scoring by Brianna Smith and LaDage with 17 points and three assists apiece, Smith pulled down four rebounds and collected three steals while LaDage grabbed two rebounds and accumulated four steals. Marty and Abby Smith scored four points apiece while Marty had two assists, three rebounds and two steals, and Abby Smith fought for nine rebounds, an assist and two steals. Sarah Ruzicka scored three points and pulled down a rebound, and Hauer aided with a point, an assist and five rebounds. Kerkhoff was held silent scoring and had an assist, five rebounds and a steal. Ryan did not see the court on Friday. The Lady Spartans sit at 6-14 as of Sunday, Feb. 4.
“I was very pleased this week with the girls’ games,” Coach Bishop commented. “Most of the goals we had for them this season involved them reaching their full potential for this year. I believe we still have more, but we are close.”
The Lady Spartans completed their regular season play in Mount Vernon on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and travel to compete in the Class 3A Region 3 pairing, to Monticello, for a 7 p.m. tipoff on Saturday, Feb. 10. The winner will advance on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at 7 p.m., to face the winner of the Vinton-Shellsburg versus Benton Community game played, in Vinton, the same evening and time.
“Mount Vernon is always a rivalry for us. The girls have played with and against a lot of these girls, so they know each other really well,” Bishop said of the Tuesday, Feb. 6, matchup. “We don’t need to scout much on their personnel, but more on their team concepts. They have a strong identity in their Defense and have very heavy help.”
The Monitcello Panthers, their regular season complete, sit at 16-5 as of Sunday, Feb. 4, with wins over common opponents West Branch and Anamosa. The Lady Spartans fell to West Branch, 49-35, on Dec. 7, 2017, and to Anamosa twice.
“Monticello, what we know so far is our defense will need to play lockdown on a couple of their girls,” Bishop said. “They have a strong inside-outside game that we will need to limit their touches.
“For us to be successful for both games this week, we will need to finish the games strong and continue to build off our team ball from last week.”