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Solon girls fall one short of district title

A road loss to Mount Vernon ends Lady Spartans’ season
Senior Nichole Oberthien (14) fights for a rebound against a Mustang as seniors Hannah Bluder (21)  and Sydney Lawson (22) attempt to box out a Mount Vernon onslaught during first quarter action on Saturday, Feb. 20. Solon succumbed to the Mustangs, 61-50. (photo by Jeff Hess)

MARION– The lights were burning bright with all their LED fury giving the Marion gymnasium the feel of a big stage on Saturday, Feb. 20, as the Solon Lady Spartans and the Mount Vernon Mustangs took the court.
Both teams were invited to the floor with the sound of the horn to warm up and there was a spring in the Lady Spartans’ step. Solon warmed up slapping hands and laughed as they stuck several balls in the net as warming up, their intensity positive. Coach Lisa Bishop and assistants Logan Hjerland, Tim Wheeler and Mark Sovers were all smiles as they discussed game strategy in front of Solon’s bench and watched the girls warming up. Solon had bewitched Anamosa, winning a third time this season in the quarterfinals and hoped they could prevent Mount Vernon from casting the same spell on them.
Unfortunately, Solon was unable to get the Mustang monkey off their proverbial back, falling to Mount Vernon, 61-50. It was the third loss of the season to Mount Vernon.
The Lady Spartans, the home team on neutral turf, drew first blood, scoring with a little less than 40 ticks expiring on the time clock. The Mustangs responded, tying it up with 7:50 remaining in the first period. Solon made it 6-2 off baskets by Josie Durr and Nichole Oberthien before Mount Vernon could register another score on the board with a little less than three minutes passed.
Mount Vernon took the lead with a less than 3:55 remaining in the period, making the score 7-6. Solon came back and tied the score at 12-all with a little less than 1:15 left in the quarter. With a little over 20 seconds remaining, Solon grabbed the lead, 14-12, only to relinquish it on a 3-point shot, just before the horn sounded ending the quarter. The Mustangs led, 15-14.
The lid snapped shut on the basket for the Lady Spartans in the second period, as Mount Vernon dominated, putting up 11 points while holding Solon to just two, courtesy of sophomore Brianna Smith. Mount Vernon led, 26-16, at the half.
Solon came out in the third period and lagged behind the Mustangs, getting down 33-18 with a little less than six minutes left in the third. The laces got tugged and the Lady Spartans clawed back to cut the Mustangs’ lead to 33-24 with less than four minutes remaining in the quarter. Solon was able to keep it within 11 as the horn sounded. The Mustangs led at the end of three, 44-33.
The fourth period was the difference between redemption and the end of the season for the Lady Spartans. Solon fell behind, 52-37, with a little over two minutes left in the game and it was clear that the seniors, Hannah Bluder, Dakota Doyle, Sydney Lawson, Nicole Oberthien and Kristina Shelman, along with the rest of the Lady Spartans did not want this to be the end of their season. However, when Oberthien’s final 3-point shot passed through the net with 22 ticks left, time was about to run out. Although Kristina Shelman and Lawson badgered the Mustangs’ last pass up the court, getting the ball to Bluder, her lay-up could not beat the buzzer and the Lady Spartans’ season came to an end with the state tournament out of reach, 61-50.
Lawson and Oberthien led the Solon scorers with 14 apiece, followed by Durr with 11, Bluder with five, and Doyle, Smith, and Taylor Ryan with two points each. Oberthien battled for 10 rebounds with a steal and an assist; Lawson snagged six rebounds with two steals; Doyle and Bryce Hinkel grabbed four rebounds and had one assist apiece; Durr wrestled away two rebounds with two steals, a blocked shot, and an assist; Bluder contributed a rebound with an assist and a blocked shot, and Smith corralled a rebound.
The Lady Spartans finished the season with a record of 14-10 overall, the first season with 14 or more wins since the 2010-2011 season (17-5), and it was the first season under the guidance of Head Coach Lisa Bishop. Solon graduates five seniors and, judging from the investment of the underclassmen, who followed the varsity team to both games, has a lot of underclassmen vying to fill the void.
The Lady Spartans Basketball Twitter account brandished a tweet, at 4:56 a.m. on Feb. 21, with a picture of the team poster and the quote, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Although there were tears as the Lady Spartans exited the court, it was evident, attested to by the black and orange of their supporters in attendance, Solon had something to smile about.