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Solon closes out against Benton, 45-42

JV squad provides spark against Bobcats
Solon’s Nichole Oberthien drives in to a bevy of Bobcats, collecting the foul, trying for a basket. Oberthien led the Lady Spartans in scoring with 14 points during their 45-42 win over Benton. (photo by Jeff Hess)

SOLON– A lot of strength and perseverance was displayed by the Lady Spartans as they defeated the Benton Bobcats at home, 45-42.
In a week that saw two games postponed due to the tragic drowning of Solon senior Tanner Wymer, the Lady Spartans were called upon to perform Tuesday, Jan. 5, against the Benton Bobcats.
The pre-game exhibition saw the Lady Spartans’ junior varsity (JV) squad take an early lead, stretch it out and, in the closing minutes, give the crowd heart palpitations as the Bobcats acted as if they would close the gap. But Solon’s JV squad bolstered, defeating Benton, 51-37.
The JV girls were led in scoring by Lexi Stebral, who put up 13 points and grabbed three rebounds. Sophie Nicol recorded eight points, three assists, three rebounds and four steals, followed by three players who scored five points each: Brianna Smith, Taylor Ryan, Hannah Kramer and Madysen Hess. Smith had one assist, two rebounds and three steals; Ryan had one assist, three rebounds and two steals; Kramer grabbed two rebounds; and Hess had six rebounds and two steals. Gabby Marty contributed four points, six rebounds and two steals, while three players added two points each to Solon’s total, Makenzie Pentico, Saige Hauer, and Julia DeValk. Hauer had two steals and Devalk had one assist and four rebounds.
The varsity girls took the floor, shortly after the horn ended the JV game, and were very business like in warm ups. Their headbands and warm up shirts were adorned with the number 78 and “#Wymerstrong,” in memoriam.
Nichole Berthing delivered the sportsmanship address and Ellen Cross belted out the National Anthem strong and clear. A moment of silence was announced in honor of Tanner Wymer and both teams took to the court.
Ally Prybil, Sydney Lawson, Brianna Smith, Bryce Hinkel and Dakota Doyle started for the Lady Spartans for the evening.
Asked by email about the absence of Hannah Bluder, Josie Durr, and Nichole Oberthien from the starting lineup, Coach Lisa Bishop responded, “All three of them missed quite a few practices over Christmas break due to different reasons. So, I wanted the girls, who didn’t miss any and practiced hard all break, to get the chance to start the game on Tuesday.”
Hinkel swatted the ball to a teammate at the tip-off and the Lady Spartans scored with less than 50 ticks gone of the opening period.
In the defensive melee, the Bobcats reclaimed the lead, 3-2, with 5:34 left. The Bobcats built to a six-point lead before Solon scored again, and Solon trailed until the buzzer ended the first quarter of play with Benton leading, 13-8.
The second period saw both defenses continuing to play physical under the boards, limiting the scoring with bump and run play as the refs let the teams play ball.
Benton climbed out to a 21-8 lead before the Lady Spartans started on a tear. Taylor Ryan checked into the game with 3:28 remaining in the first half of play and added a spark to the Lady Spartans. Smith followed Ryan’s lead and drained a 3-point shot, and Doyle also followed suit with a layup with a little over two minutes remained in the half. Durr added her own 3-point shot, closing Solon to within three, 21-18. Ryan scored two points driving in beneath the basket, getting the crowd into the game. The Lady Spartans worked their defensive magic again and with a little over 30 seconds remaining in the half, Ryan deposited a 3-pointer to push Solon into the lead, 23-21.
The horn hailed the close of the first half with Solon leading 23-21.
The third period turned into a physical tug-of-war as Benton slowed the pace of the game on the court and the two very competitive, focused teams went at it. The third period expired as Benton reclaimed the lead, 33-29.
The fourth period saw DeValk, Stebral, Smith, Nicol and Ryan take the floor against the Bobcats for Solon to start. The underclassmen held the Bobcats scoreless until Coach Bishop tapped Prybil, Oberthien, Durr, Dakota and Lawson to return with 5:50 remaining on the clock.
The sprint was on to the end of the game.
At one point, Hinkel showed great tenacity working under the basket, grappling for the ball against Benton and putting it back three times before a foul was called.
Durr spent a lot of time badgering the Bobcats, getting vertical a great many times, tipping balls and breaking down Benton’s plays.
Solon trailed but stayed within striking distance of the Bobcats until the Lady Spartans tied things up at 37 with a little more than two minutes showing on the clock.
The final minute became an exercise in tactics. Oberthien pushed Solon ahead with a shot making it 41-40 in Solon’s favor as 41 seconds remained, igniting the crowd and forcing Benton to call a time-out. On the ensuing in-bounds pass, Durr tipped the ball, Oberthien ended up with it and in trying to deliver it to the basket, drew the foul. She sank both free throws. Durr and Doyle combined to rattle the Bobcats on several ensuing inbounds and Solon was able to make the final score, 45-42, sharing a lot of respect with the Bobcats of Benton on a very emotional evening.
When asked about the rollercoaster of tempo changes throughout the game, Coach Bishop responded, “Our game plan was to go out and compete as best as we could under the circumstances of last week. We wanted to honor Tanner (Wymer) with the game, as best as we could. There were speed changes, I think that came, when our focus was on the game and not the situation.”
“It was a difficult game for the girls, (and for) the coaching staff to know how to best lead our team, and honestly the other team as well. Benton is a great team with an amazing group of young ladies that were truly compassionate toward our situation. They wrote a card before the game to all our players, which meant a lot to our girls. It was a great game that I couldn’t be more proud of our girls for,” she added.
When asked about the JV players starting the fourth period, Bishop responded, “I felt like the JV team played really well that night, so I wanted to give some of them a chance in the varsity game, to go and try and improve our team defense which, I felt like, was really lacking the third quarter. The fresh (five) I put in did exactly what I wanted them to do and gave the older girls a bit of a fresh start. The discussion on the bench at that point was that we needed to pick up the intensity on defense if we were going to win that game… I felt like they found another gear which I was proud of them for!”
Oberthien led the varsity scorers with 14 points, five rebounds and three steals. She was followed by Doyle scoring 10 points with one assist, eight rebounds and three steals. Durr and Ryan put up five points each; Durr posted three assists, two blocks, four rebounds and four steals while Ryan had two assists, five rebounds and two steals. Hinkel put up four points with two rebounds and a steal while Smith had three points with five rebounds and a steal. Bluder and Lawson each contributed two points. Bluder had five rebounds and Lawson contributed an assist and two rebounds.
Solon improved to 5-4 on the season with two of the games from the week postponed. The Lady Spartans are rescheduled to travel to Mount Pleasant on Monday, Jan. 18, in a varsity-only competition with a 6 p.m. tip-off.
They are rescheduled to play West Delaware (5-4) in Manchester on Thursday, Feb. 11, with all levels competing. JV tip-off at 6 p.m. and varsity tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
The Lady Spartan varsity squad was scheduled to meet Maquoketa (2-7) Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school gymnasium with JV playing at 6 p.m. Solon meets Mount Vernon (8-3), on their home court again, Friday, Jan. 15, with JV at 6 p.m. and varsity tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
Following the rescheduled Mount Pleasant match-up, the Lady Spartans play Tuesday, Jan. 19, at home against Central Clinton, DeWitt (8-3) and travel to Epworth on Jan. 22 to challenge Western Dubuque (11-0), both games with JV play at 6 p.m. and varsity following at 7:30 p.m.
“Our focus for the games this week is to get our girls back in the swing of things,” Bishop said when asked about moving forward. “Refocus on our goals for the year, set some new ones, build team chemistry and compete one game at a time. We are excited we will get to do this on our home court all week!”