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Solon loses in 2OT to Benton

Spartans turn it around Saturday against CPU

SOLON– It could have been a soul-crushing loss.
But the varsity Spartan basketball team shook it off.
After watching a nine-point first-half lead evaporate, Solon fell in double-overtime to Benton Community, 57-52, in the home basketball opener Friday, Dec. 13.
And when the Spartans hosted the Stormin’ Pointers of Center Point-Urbana (CPU) the next day, they fell in a 16-0 hole before their first points hit the scoreboard in the second period.
When the final horn sounded, however, Solon emerged with a 48-46 win.
“We took a huge step Saturday as a team,” Solon Head Coach Matt Lesan said. “Coming off a tough loss Friday, CPU came in and got on us early. Our team took a deep look within and responded, which is a big testament to the character of these young men.”
The Spartans went on to outscore the Stormin’ Pointers in every quarter after the first, led by junior Bo Janssen, who went 2-3 from the field and 8-10 from the charity stripe for 12 points. Junior Carson Shive added nine, junior Ben Cusick eight and junior Drew Turner seven. Eight different Spartans scored.
“It was a complete team effort,” Lesan noted.
CPU shot better from the field and held an edge on rebounds (25-20), but Solon made strides at the free throw line, connecting on 17-24 attempts. The Stormin’ Pointers made it to the line 15 times, coming away with nine points.
Five of Cusick’s seven rebounds came on the offensive glass. Sophomore Kinnick Pusteoska grabbed five boards, three offensive.
The win moved the Spartans to 2-2 on the season, back to .500 after the spine-tingling home opener.
Solon had started out strong against Benton Community, taking a 27-18 halftime lead, but the Bobcats held the Spartans to seven points in the third and the two teams were tied 34-34 heading into the fourth.
Regulation ended with the teams knotted at 41-41, and the first overtime ended with a 47-47 stalemate.
Benton outscored Solon 10-5 in the fateful extra-extra period.
“I was extremely proud of our team's effort on Friday,” Lesan said. “We had several opportunities to win that game, and just came up short. Benton is an extremely well coached team, so you have to give them a ton of credit for making the plays to win the game.
“We have a lot of players that have never been in that situation before so it was a great learning experience for us as a team,” he added.
The Spartans came out of the gates strong, with Pusteoska dropping the first points of the game and then coming up with a steal and a hoop. Janssen added a three-pointer and Solon was up, 7-0.
The Bobcats responded with back-to-back three-pointers and kept it close until the waning moments of the first half.
The Spartans’ defense came up with 16 steals, led by Cusick with seven.
“Our zone has been a big part of us setting the tone on the defensive side,” Lesan noted. “We also play man-to-man defense as well. To be successful at this high of a level you have to be able to play both well. We are still working on both and have a lot of things we need to continue to get better at, but we are pleased with the progress we have made at this point of the year.”
Junior David Bluder led the Solon scoring with 17 points, going 6-12 from the field, including 5-10 from deep. Shive added 13 and Cusick 11. Cusick also added four assists.
“Ben has played some extremely effective basketball for us this year, he has done a great job of attacking on the offensive end,” Lesan observed. “He is a difference maker for us and I love his ability to pass the basketball.”
But the Bobcats shot better than the Spartans from the field and from the free throw line, where Solon was 8-18 (44 percent).
Benton also had a 35-32 advantage rebounding. Pusteoska had eight, Bluder added seven and Shive six.
The two home games were played without senior starter Cam Miller, who was on an official college visit.
“We continue to grow as a team and I have been proud of how the team has started to come together,” Lesan said. “We have a large junior class who loves competing and they are also becoming more comfortable with their leadership roles.”
The Spartans closed out 2019 at home hosting West Branch (Dec. 16) and Central DeWitt (Dec. 17). Solon opens 2020 on the road at Marion Friday, Jan. 3, then head to Mount Vernon Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Bo Janssen does a nice job for us and utilizes his athleticism/length extremely well. Our guys are asked to know multiple positions so in our zone.

I love the leadership our seniors Tyler Locke and Cam Miller have provided this year. Tyler does a wonderful job of elevating the level of intensity in practice. Tyler was a difference maker this fall for the football program, and does a great job for us in practice every single day. Cam has done a nice job of adjusting from football to basketball, and varying his leadership style. He is competing with familiar faces and some new faces.