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Solon girls drop two, now 5-11

Girls hit a skid on the courts
Solon junior Gabby Marty attempts a put-back following a rebound sandwiched between Central Clinton defenders on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at home. The Lady Spartans fell to the Sabers, 32-21.

EPWORTH– The week started Tuesday, Jan. 16, with a loss at home, 32-21, to the Central DeWitt Sabers and continued to tumble Friday, Jan. 19, in Epworth with a loss to the Western Dubuque Bobcats, 63-38.
The slow, low-scoring affair on Jan. 16 was the result of four very close periods, however the Lady Spartans were unable to summit a quarter.
The Lady Spartans got out on top 4-3, with five minutes remaining, courtesy of jump shots in the paint by Gabby Marty and Abby Smith, before the Sabers jumped out, 9-4, with a minute left in the quarter. Solon attempted to rally in the final minute with a jump shot by Saige Hauer, to close within three to enter the second quarter, 9-6.
In the second quarter, the Spartans came knocking when Abby Smith tied up a ball, forcing the Sabers to call a time-out, with 4:41 remaining in the first half, in a last-ditch effort to not lose possession, as Solon lurked within two, trailing 11-9. A little less than a minute later, the Lady Spartans moved within a point of the Central DeWitt, 13-12. The quarter closed with the Sabers sinking a deuce, drawing a foul, and sinking the free throws to claim the half, 17-12.
The third quarter started with each team adding a bucket to their respective scores two minutes in. The Sabers added six and the Lady Spartans were unable to score again until a little more than one minute remained in the third to make the score 24-16.
The fourth quarter began with the score still 24-16 and both teams began a hard press defense, the Bobcats in hopes of maintaining an eight-point lead and Solon hoping to create opportunities. With almost 2:30 remaining, the teams sat at 26-18 as Central DeWitt called for a time out. The score remained unaltered until the Lady Spartans began fouling in hopes of facilitating a scoring possession. The Sabers made it 27-18 with a little over 1:20 remaining. A little over 1:05 remaining, they extended the lead to 28-18 via free throws. Both teams sank a free throw for a score of 29-19 with a little less than a minute left in the game. As the Spartan scoreboard glowed with 45 seconds remaining, free throws pushed Central DeWitt to a 31-19 lead. Erin Kerkhoff drained a deuce to make the score 31-21 with a little more than 30 seconds left. But inevitably, the Lady Spartans fell victim to Central DeWitt, 32-21.
Taylor Ryan led the Lady Spartans’ scoring with eight points, pulling down three rebounds and stole the ball twice. Marty scored four points, recorded 11 rebounds along with two assists and two steals; Brianna Smith scored three points, had one assist and three rebounds, stealing the ball once; and Saige Hauer, Erin Kerkhoff and Abby Smith scored two points apiece. Hauer battled for three rebounds and stole the ball twice; Kerkhoff had an assist, two rebounds and recorded four steals; and Abby Smith had an assist and scrapped for six rebounds and two steals. Jenna LaDage was held silent scoring but contributed an assist, a rebound, and a steal. The Lady Spartans committed 21 turnovers.
Coach Lisa Bishop commented on the evening,
“Our girls did some nice things, but unfortunately, for one of the first times this season, we really struggled to finish shots,” Head Coach Lisa Bishop said. “We got off the attempts we needed, but just couldn’t buy a bucket.”
The evening did, however, end on a high note, as Brianna Smith, hoping to emerge from the locker room on the heels of a win, approached her family in the stands and tossed several wrapped packages to her grandfather, her brother and her sister-in-law. As if it were a Christmas for her, she smiled as the packages were opened to reveal Central College T-shirts. With three schools in pursuit of her, she announced to her family in attendance she’d decided to continue playing basketball for the Central Dutch while continuing her academic career. She went on, the following day, to post her collegiate decision on Facebook and Instagram, via a picture of her holding a basketball, adorned in the red and white T-shirt touting her Central Dutch allegiance, along with the statement “So excited to say I’m going to continue playing the sport I love at Central College…#godutch!”
Coach Bishop said Brianna Smith has a passion for the game.
“I am so extremely proud of Brianna,” Bishop stated. “She has been a culture builder for this program and you don’t come across many girls like her very often. She has a passion for the game and truly a desire to be the best player and teammate she is capable of becoming. I think Central is very blessed to have a girl like Bri (as) part of their program and look forward to what her future entails.” 
“My recruitment really heated up this summer and I got lots of calls and mail, but before my decision, I had narrowed it down to Central College, Webster University and Loras College,” Smith said via email. “Central honestly just felt like home to me. Pella has the same ‘small town Iowa’ feel that Solon has. Coach Steinkamp and Coach Briggs both were huge impacts on that because they put so much effort into recruiting me and forming a relationship with me. I also was able to speak with some of the professors when I went on my visit which really showcased their academics, which was my number one priority.”
She also acknowledged her appreciation of support from her parents and others. “I mean obviously my parents and my family for all their support and love and then my coaches and my teammates for helping me develop into the basketball player that I am and always pushing me,” she said. “Everyone in my life has been so supportive and always been willing to help me achieve my goals.”
Smith also felt the interest shown in her beyond high school stemmed from her passion for the sport. She offered advice to those wanting to play beyond high school. “Whatever you’re going to do, do it with passion or don’t do it at all,” she said. “And no matter what happens, find the positive side to it. You’re going to be using all your energy chasing your dreams, don’t waste it on the little things that don’t matter.”

The week was not any kinder to the Lady Spartans, on Friday, Jan. 19, in Epworth. They got off to a less than stellar start, outscored by the Bobcats 18-5 in the first quarter.
They rallied in the second, falling just shy of matching Western Dubuque, 15-14, for a halftime score of 33-19.
The third quarter saw the Lady Spartans match Western Dubuque point for point with an 11-point scoring effort by both teams to start the fourth quarter 44-30.
Although the Lady Spartans got within 10 points of the Bobcats on several occasions during the evening, the final quarter was dominated by Western Dubuque who more than doubled the Solon’s productivity on the boards, 19-8, for a final score of 63-38.
Ryan scored 11 points to lead the Spartan scoring efforts, stealing the ball once and recording an assist. Brianna Smith added eight points along with two assists, five rebounds and two steals; Kerkhoff scored six points with three rebounds and a steal; and Marty and LaDage both added four points with Marty pulling down five rebounds, stealing the ball four times, and pulling down five rebounds. LaDage had four assists, a rebound and two steals. Sam Miller made her season debut, adding three points in her first time on the court. Hauer added two points, again scrapping for two rebounds. Although not adding points, Ashley Walsh pulled down a rebound; Haley Melchert stole a ball; and Abby Smith battled under the boards for six rebounds. The Lady Spartans once again fell prey to their turnover nemesis, recording 21.
With the recent return of Ryan and the addition of Miller does it mean an end of season change looming for the Lady Spartans? Coach Bishop quickly dismissed any upcoming changes to the team dynamic. “We haven’t changed our offensive scheme. The roles have changed a small amount,” Bishop said. “Taylor looks to score any chance she gets, which helps us on the offensive end. We just need to continue to work out our post game, so we have more of an inside-outside presence, and find ways to get Brianna more involved.”
Coach Bishop felt the limitations of the remainder of the season when asked if Miller was a facet of Solon’s game to receive emphasis in the future. “Unfortunately with Sam missing so much of the season she will not get in the rotation,” Bishop noted. “We will, however, look to her if a team is playing us in a zone and we need a three.”
Coach Bishop reiterated the Lady Spartans’ focus for the next five games of the season will continue to be on valuing the basketball.
“We also need to find consistency to play all four quarters in each of those games. We don’t get a game off in the WaMaC East with all the teams being so evenly matched, so we need to prepare each and every game like it is the most important game of the season.” 
Sitting at 5-11 as of Jan. 22, the Lady Spartans have five opportunities remaining. Solon was scheduled to host Anamosa on Tuesday, Jan. 23, and travels to Dyersville to take on Beckman Catholic on Friday, Jan. 26.
It is Senior Night on Tuesday, Jan. 30, as the Lady Spartans host their final home game of the season against West Delaware.
They close the season with two road games, the first in Maquoketa on Friday, Feb. 2, and then a trek up Highway 1 to battle rival Mount Vernon on Tuesday, Feb. 6. All games have a 7:30 p.m. varsity start and are preceded by a junior varsity game commencing at 6 p.m.
“My hopes, for the remainder of the season, are for the girls to all be clicking together when it matters most,” Bishop said. “In my opinion, success would be: knowing we all did our best to be the best we are capable of becoming. We have not seen it yet, but when it happens it will be exciting!”
Statistics for the article are courtesy of the Solon Lady Spartans basketball team.