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Lady Spartans victorious in epic semifinal

Solon knocks off Monticello, 50-48, in overtime
The Lady Spartans celebrate Solon's 50-48 Class 3A Region 7 semifinal triumph over the Monticello Panthers, at home, on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

SOLON– In the Lady Spartans varsity basketball team’s best game thus far this season, Solon bested the Monticello Panthers, 50-48, in an overtime battle of the ages.
Solon started the game as they had many this season, with a strong first quarter, building to a 15-10 lead at the end of one with both the Levin sisters, MaKinley and Callie, scoring five points in the first quarter.
Kaia Holtkamp dropped a two pointer, courtesy of an Ava Stebral assist, to give Solon the biggest lead of the game, 19-12, with a little over six minutes remaining in the half. Monticello stopped Solon’s offensive production in half and closed within a point of Solon, 19-18, as the teams entered the locker rooms.
The Panthers claimed a 20-19 lead less than a minute into the third quarter and Solon retaliated, reclaiming the lead 22-20 on a three-pointer and so the two teams began skirting the line the remainder of the game. Monticello got out on the Spartans, 28-25, with a little over three minutes remaining in the third before a dish from Holtkamp to Callie Levin for a three-pointer from the right side of the arc knotted the teams at 28-all. A deuce in the last second, just before the horn by Stebral gave Solon a 30-28 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Stebral put the Lady Spartans out three, 33-30, with another big three-pointer a little over a minute and a half into the fourth and the Panthers called a timeout after driving into and becoming trapped in the southwest corner of the court. The Panthers would burn another timeout trailing, 37-36, with a little over 4:30 remaining in regulation. Lady Spartans Head Coach Jamie Smith called his own time with the game knotted at 42 with a little less than a minute remaining. Callie Levin, with a pair of steely-nerved free throws, sent the game to overtime, re-tying the game at 44 with 26.7 ticks remaining– not enough time for the Panthers to steal the win.
Four minutes remained in one team’s season as the Panthers and Lady Spartans rolled into overtime.
Two minutes later, both teams battling, Monticello called timeout with the game stymied at 46-46, following Elly Holubar tying it up with a pair of free throws.
The Panthers’ Gabrielle Guilford delivered free throws for a Monticello 48-46 lead with 1:43 remaining in the overtime. A little more than 10 seconds later, Callie Levin delivered a driving lay up for the 50-48 Solon lead. A Stebral blocked shot and rebound recovery to drive up the court put Solon in control and Solon took two back-to-back timeouts with roughly 2.2 ticks remaining to ensure the Lady Spartans’ inbound for a 50-48 victory.
The triumph stamped Solon’s ticket to the regional final for the first time since 2016, to be held at North Cedar High School, in Clarence, facing the Davenport Assumption Knights (7-11) in the Region 7 title game for the Lady Spartans’ first state tournament berth since 2006, Saturday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m.
Davenport Assumption advanced after defeating 10th-ranked Center Point-Urbana, 40-31.
“Assumption is very good,” Coach Smith commented on the match up. “Throw their record out the window. They play in a 4A-5A conference, so they play very good teams nightly. It will be a tough game.”
Solon’s victory over the Panthers ended Monticello’s eight-game winning streak. Monticello’s Guilford scored 20 points in the game and Lydia Recker added 10 of the Panthers’ points.
Callie Levin led all scorers in the game with 24 points. Stebral provided seven, with Holubar adding six points, leading the Spartans’ rebounding efforts with 15, and Kaia Holtkamp and MaKinley Levin added five points apiece.
“Very exciting game!” Smith proclaimed. “Everyone stepped up and did their job. Callie took over in the fourth and overtime quarters.”
Coach Smith also affirmed the Lady Spartans players are becoming seasoned, commenting on player performances in the final moments and the pressure of free throws.
“Some players live for those moments and Callie is one of them. I am sure everyone else felt more nervous at the time than Callie,” Coach Smith commented. “Also, Elly's free throws were big-time as well. Tied the game for us.”
Coach Smith also exercised his usual evasiveness in sharing information about the coaching staff’s excitement and tentativeness in the final minutes of regular play and overtime during bench discussions.
“Oh, I don't know,” he sidestepped. “We were just trying to find a way to finish the game.”
Coach Smith remained business-like when pressed regarding his perception of the team’s improvement in the past three years.
“Obviously from a win-loss stand point we have come a long way,” he stated. “But more importantly, we have come a long way as basketball players. As a coach, that is all you can ask for.”

Solon 50, Monticello 48
Scoring– Callie Levin 24, Stebral 7, Holubar 6, Holtkamp 5, MaKinley 5, Hilary Wilson 3.
Rebounds (total-offensive)– Holubar 15-10, Callie Levin 7-2, Stebral 5-3, Holtkamp 3-2, MaKinley 2-0, Claire LaDage 1-1, Wilson 1-1.
Assists– Callie Levin 4, Holtkamp 2, Holubar 2, Mak Levin 1, Stebral, Wilson 1.
Steals– Callie 4, Stebral 3, Holtkamp 1, Mak 1, Holubar 1.
Blocks– Callie 1, Stebral 1.