Rivalry renewedSolon Springs defeats Northwood 59-23
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
SOLON SPRINGS — Three months ago, Gage Harwick and Jake Dahlberg stood shoulder to shoulder on the Evergreens offensive line.
On Monday night, only Harwick wore the dark green jersey of the Evergreens. Dahlberg sported the colors of the Solon Springs Eagles and spent the game jockeying with Harwick for position under the basket.
“It’s funny because those two are side by side on the football field,” said Dale Rajala, head coach of the Eagles. “All these guys know each other like the back of their hands.”
During the football season, Northwood and Solon Springs combine to form a co-op team, and players from both schools don the colors of the Evergreens and play in Minong.
When the season turns from football to basketball, however, the one-time teammates quickly become rivals.
“Obviously we’re good friends, but I think it makes it that much more competitive because you want to beat the other guy, even though he’s your teammate in the fall,” said Phil Larson, the Eagles’ leading scorer. He served as the Evergreens’ quarterback in the fall.
Northwood and Solon Springs renewed their rivalry Monday after missing their annual basketball match-up last year. The Eagles, who won the last meeting on Jan. 7, 2010, kept their winning streak alive with a 59-23 victory over the Evergreens.
Solon Springs improves to 9-1 overall with the win, while Northwood falls to 4-6.
“We have bragging rights now,” Larson said.
Solon Springs holds a 3-2 advantage over Northwood in the last five contests between the teams. Prior to that, the Eagles had a winning streak against Northwood dating back to the 2002-03 season.
The Evergreens scored their first two baskets of the game Monday when they broke the Eagles’ press and got the ball to Eric Olson for a pair of layups and the 4-2 lead.
Northwood stayed in front until the 3:51 mark, when Trey Scheldroup took the ball inside for a left-handed shot. Larson extended the Eagles’ lead to 7-4 on a fast-break layup, but another basket against Solon Springs’ press and a long two-pointer from Northwood’s Braxton Philips left the Eagles up just 10-8 at the end of the first quarter.
Six of Northwood’s eight points in the quarter came against the Eagles’ press.
“They were fired up tonight. We’re going to get their best effort every time,” Rajala said. “We couldn’t stop them. They broke the press, they finished their shots and Eric Olson was just all over the place; so we felt we needed to shift out of that defense and go to what’s been working for us, and that’s our half-court 2-3 zone.”
The Eagles saw immediate results from their zone defense. After giving up four field goals in the first quarter, they held Northwood to just three field goals over the next two quarters to build a 22-point lead.
“When they went into a zone, that stumped us,” said Charlie Vig, Northwood head coach. “We didn’t go forward; we played scared and obviously we didn’t get any shots.”
Larson opened the second quarter with a pair of baskets to put Solon Springs up 14-10, and the Eagles closed out the first half with an 11-2 run. Larson scored eight of Solon Springs’ 15 points in the second quarter, and Kyle Vandenberghe added five points inside.
The Evergreens continued to struggle with Solon Springs’ zone defense in the third quarter. Northwood failed to score in the opening four minutes and allowed the Eagles to build a 34-17 lead with 2:42 left in the quarter.
From that point, Northwood wouldn’t score again until two minutes had passed in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles outscored their opponents 20-6 in the final period.
“We get behind and we just don’t have enough firepower to make a comeback, especially when Solon’s a pretty good basketball team,” Vig said. “The problem is experience, but I still have four or five guys that have played long enough. We will get better.”
Solon Springs was 16-of-23 at the free-throw line, including going 8-of-10 in the fourth quarter. Northwood finished the game going 2-of-2 on free throws.
Olson led the Evergreens with six points, Nick Murray had five, Philips and Harwick had four points each and Ben Burns and Kacey Block added two points apiece.
“Our goal was to shut down Gage Harwick inside,” Rajala said. “I had to make sure that Jacob Dahlberg was going to front him and follow him all over the place. We told him, ‘Just keep fighting. Gage is big and strong, but so are you. Just keep working.’”
Larson was the game’s high scorer with 17 points. Cody Utyro followed with 10 points, and Daniel Gengenbach picked up eight points in the fourth quarter to finish with nine. Corey Utyro had seven points, Scheldroup and Vandenberghe added six apiece — all in the first half — and Tyler Long and Dahlberg finished with two points each.
Next up for the Eagles is an away game Thursday at Hurley. The Northwood boys host Prairie Farm Friday and then host the Siren Dragons Tuesday.
Larson is on track to become one of the Eagles’ all-time leading scorers, but you won’t hear a peep from the senior guard about his individual accomplishments.
When he scored his 1,000th point recently, the occasion came and went quietly.
“Down in Clayton over Christmas break he scored his 1,000th point against Bruce,” Rajala said. “It wasn’t the exact place we wanted it to happen, but he’s always been low-key about that stuff anyways.”
“I’m just happy to score 1,000 and get it out of the way so we can focus on the season and the team can move on,” Larson said.
The last Solon Springs player to score 1,000 points was Zach Gilbert, who accomplished the feat on Feb. 20, 2006. Kenny Smith crossed the 1,000-point mark in 2004, and Tony West did so in 1997.
“Philip joins a very elite group of players,” Rajala said. “We’re blessed to have him and he’s just been a fantastic player.”
Solon Springs 10 15 14 20 — 59
Northwood 8 4 5 6 — 23
Solon Springs — Phil Larson 17, Cody Utyro 10, Trey Scheldroup 6, Kyle Vandenberghe 6, Jake Dahlberg 2, Daniel Gengenbach 9, Corey Utyro 7, Tyler Long 2.
3-point goals — Larson.
Northwood — Eric Olson 6, Nick Murray 5, Gage Harwick 4, Braxton Philips 4, Kacey Block 2, Ben Burns 2.
3-point goals — Murray.