Solon turns up the defensive intensity, tops Washington
SOLON — Sometimes you’re hot, and sometimes you’re not.
And sometimes both can happen in the same game.
Washington shot 65 percent from the field in the first half of Monday’s Class 3A District 10 semifinal, and led No. 10 Solon 29-28 at halftime. But the Demons shot just 26 percent in the second half, and the host Spartans pulled away for a 58-40 victory.
“They were shooting really well,” Solon sophomore Emilio Villagrana said. “We just weren’t closing out as hard as we should have. In the second half we started closing out a little harder.”
Solon (18-4) clamped down on the defensive end after halftime, allowing the Demons to score just two points — on an awkward runner by junior Alex Coker — over the first 12 minutes of the second half. Meanwhile, the Spartans built a 20-point lead.
“We just decided we were going to play a little more aggressive,” Solon head coach Brad Randall said. “We were going to go down swinging. I think that Washington out-hustled us, they played more physical, and they were more aggressive in the first half.”
The Spartans scored the first 19 points of the second half. Washington missed its first eight shots in the third quarter and turned the ball over 10 times before Coker sank a runner with 26 seconds left in the period.
“We weren’t expecting them to come out like that,” Washington senior Kyle Roder said. “They came out really aggressive and kind of got into our heads.”
Villagrana scored 18 points to lead the Spartans, and senior Austin M. Miller hit three 3-pointers and added 13 points. Ryan Kunkel, a 6-foot-7 senior, added 10 points and eight rebounds.
Solon will face Keokuk (16-6) in Thursday’s district final in Washington.
“If we don’t play a better first half and a better first quarter, we’re all done,” Randall said. “Keokuk or Fairfield, I don’t care who you want to talk about, they’ll make mincemeat out of us. We’d better be ready to play from the opening gun or else we’re going to be putting the suits away.”
The Demons came out firing in Monday’s district semifinal. Senior Kyle Roder made his first three 3-pointers, and Coker added a shot from beyond the arc to put Washington ahead 16-10 five minutes into the game.
“I thought that Roder made about three shots early in the game where we were wearing him,” Randall said. “They just went right in like they had eyes. [After that] we identified him, and he didn’t get as many good looks.”
Roder, who along with fellow senior Justin Hoffman was playing in his final high school basketball game, finished with 11 points to lead the Demons. Washington finished its season with a record of 5-17.
“It’s my last game, and I just felt like I had to do something to help us win,” Roder said. “So I just started shooting.”
The two teams traded the lead for much of the second quarter, and junior Noah Lebsack’s 3-pointer gave Washington a 29-28 lead heading into the locker room.
“That’s right where we wanted to be — in the 20s somewhere and close,” Washington head coach Bryce Smeins said. “In the first half we were pretty hot, and in the second half we weren’t.”