Evergreen girls, Eagle boys win
SOLON SPRINGS — Monday’s showdown between the Northwood Evergreens and Solon Springs Eagles lived up to the hype. The girls basketball game was the closest since 2006, and the boys game was decided in overtime.
The gym at Solon Springs was packed for the doubleheader event.
“Being that we’re only 15 miles apart, there’s going to be a lot of community members coming out to watch,” said Brian Amys, Solon Springs girls head coach. “The crowd was into it, and it was good to see these people from our community out to support us.”
Dale Rajala, head coach of the Eagle boys, was also impressed by the turnout. People sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the bleachers, and the stage overlooking the gym floor was opened to provide extra seating.
“I didn’t think we could put this many people in this gym tonight,” Rajala said. “Trying to bark out anything was impossible, so I think next time I’m going to bring colored cardboard pieces or something so they can see what I want them to do.
“But it was a fantastic crowd tonight. And these guys (Northwood and Solon Springs) are buds. They play football together, but all the gloves came off and it was just a great game for everybody.”
The Eagle girls are counting missed opportunities after falling to Northwood 44-32 Monday night.
Solon Springs had a sound game plan, Amys said, but the team faltered in one area.
“We wanted to attack the basket and get them in foul trouble. We did that,” Amys said. “But when you shoot 13-of-30 from the free-throw line it’s hard to win basketball games.”
The Eagles were 12-of-28 from the free-throw line in the second half of Monday’s game. They managed to draw 16 fouls in the second half after drawing just five in the opening 18 minutes.
Northwood was 6-of-6 at the line in the first half and 7-of-13 in the second to finish 13-of-19 overall.
The game got off to a slow start, with the Eagles and Evergreens combining for just nine points in the opening 11 minutes.
Northwood began to gain momentum at 6:27 when Carley Stone made two free throws to give the Evergreens an 8-3 lead. Julia Manor added a 3-pointer a minute later, and Mckenzie Coons gave Northwood a 13-3 lead with a pair of free throws.
The Evergreens led 17-5 before Allyssa Bjerklien gave Solon Springs a spark. The sophomore hit two 3-pointers and a shot in the lane in the final 2:45 to cut Northwood’s lead to 21-13.
“I just brought her up a couple of weeks ago to the varsity team,” Amys said. “She’s been a big contributor. She plays great defense, she’s quick and she has a shot.”
The Eagles closed to within six points of Northwood early in the second half, but their struggles at the free-throw line derailed any comeback hopes.
Solon Springs made just three of its first 11 free throw attempts in the second half.
The Northwood girls (9-11) now hold an eight-game winning streak against Solon Springs. Northwood fell to Ashland 46-31 Tuesday and plays at Clayton at 5:45 p.m. today. The Evergreens end the regular season Feb. 19 at Clear Lake.
Solon Springs was 8-10 overall heading into Thursday’s game with Hurley. The Eagle girls play at Drummond Monday and then host Birchwood Tuesday in a doubleheader. The girls game starts at 5:45 p.m. and the boys game is at 7:15 p.m.
NOTES: The Evergreens’ top scorer Monday, Jackie Manor, is a sophomore. The Eagles’ leading scorer, Morgan Anderson, is a freshman. Freshmen and sophomores accounted for 86 percent of Northwood’s points and 66 percent of Solon Springs’ points in Monday’s match-up. “Jason (Schultz) does a great job down there coaching those girls,” Amys said. “I think with our younger groups, it’s going to be a battle the next few years here.” … Jackie Manor did not play in Tuesday’s game with Ashland. The Evergreens’ leading scorer got tangled with Solon Springs’ Phoenix Thomas with 4:27 to play Monday and hit her head on the floor. Manor walked off the court but did not play again in Monday’s game. She is averaging about 12 points per game for Northwood.
Northwood 21 23 — 44
Solon Springs 13 19 — 32
Northwood — Jackie Manor 17, Mckenzie Coons 8, Carley Stone 6, Julia Manor 6, Jayden Barrett 5, Riley Sears 2.
3-point goals — Julie Manor.
Solon Springs — Morgan Anderson 9, Allyssa Bjerklien 8, Phoenix Thomas 5, Dominique Orozco 4, Karly Sutherland 3, Lindsey Sickler 2, Anna Flemmen-Plys 1.
3-point goals — Bjerklien 2, Anderson.
Ashland 21 25 — 46
Northwood 14 17 — 31
Ashland — Alison Tollas 14, Alison Huber 11, Cassie Perry 11, Aneesa Tucker 4, Kaylee McPeak 3, Molly Kovala 2, Lexi St. Germain 1.
3-point goals — Huber 2.
Northwood — Mckenzie Coons 11, Carley Stone 9, Riley Sears 6, Julia Manor 2, Abby Martin 2, Audrie Michie 1.
3-point goals — Coons 2.
On paper, the Solon Springs boys basketball team should have been the heavy favorite Monday.
The Eagles have only one loss this season and are averaging more than 70 points per game. Northwood entered the game 9-8 overall and averaging about 54 points of offense.
“You can throw away all the records, whenever we play Northwood it’s always going to be a brawl,” Rajala said. “Each team doesn’t want to lose to their main rival, and that was sure evident tonight.”
Northwood became the first team this season to hold Solon Springs under 50 points in regulation play, as the game was tied 46-46 at the end of the second half. The Eagles picked up 11 more points in overtime to win 57-54, but they were still held well below their season average.
“All the credit to Northwood,” Rajala said. “Those kids played so hard defensively. They shut us down. Every shot was contested, and they should really be proud of themselves.”
Senior Ryan Anderson led Solon Springs to a fast start in overtime. He scored four of the Eagles’ first six points, beginning with a 3-pointer from the left wing.
Following Anderson’s 3-pointer, the Eagles forced Northwood into a turnover when Jens Gehl deflected a pass to Caleb Hedberg for a steal. Gehl then got the ball on the baseline and went inside for a layup.
Randy Fosberg scored Northwood’s first points of overtime with a floater at 3:14, but Solon Springs scored the next three points to take a 54-48 lead. Anderson scored one of the points on a free throw, and Gehl picked up the other two when Adam Vandenberghe made a great pass inside.
“If we would have done that most of the game, we probably wouldn’t have been in overtime,” Rajala said. “We probably would have had an opportunity to win the game in regulation.”
Northwood eventually closed to 56-54 on Fosberg’s steal and layup, but Anderson’s free throw with 8.3 seconds to play forced the Evergreens to go for a 3-pointer in the final seconds. Northwood managed to get off a shot at the buzzer, but it did not fall.
On Tuesday, the Eagles improved to 17-1 overall and 12-1 in the Indianhead Conference with a 75-32 victory over Butternut. Solon Springs plays at Drummond at 7:15 p.m. today and hosts Birchwood in a nonconference game Tuesday.
The Eagles close the regular season with two more home games — Hurley at 7:15 p.m. Feb. 19 and Mercer at 5 p.m. Feb. 20.
Northwood (9-9) plays at Clayton at 7:15 p.m. today. The Evergreens then wrap up the regular season with home games against Clear Lake (Feb. 18), South Shore (Feb. 22) and Turtle Lake (Feb. 25).
NOTES: With Monday’s win, Solon Springs avenged last year’s 55-44 loss to Northwood. The Eagle boys had won five straight against Northwood before losing last year.
Northwood 22 24 8 — 54
Solon Springs 27 19 11 — 57
Northwood — Randy Fosberg 16, Tyler Budisalovich 12, Matt Benson 8, Ryan Volz 7, Ryan Hill 4, Dustin Sohn 4, Brandon Daleiden 2, Hunter Phillips 1.
3-point goals — Budisalovich 4, Benson, Fosberg.
Solon Springs — Adam Vandenberghe 12, Jens Gehl 12, Ryan Anderson 9, Zach Rajala 8, Corey Pajtash 6, Caleb Hedberg 6, Ian Klinzing 2, Reid Lisson 2.
3-point goals — Vandenberghe, Anderson.
Butternut 15 17 — 32
Solon Springs 50 25 — 75
Butternut — Spencer Maier 12, Jace Scherwinski 8, Riley Christian 7, Seth Scherwinski 5.
3-point goals — Maier 2, Christian.
Solon Springs — Ryan Anderson 21, Corey Pajtash 13, Adam Vandenberghe 12, Jens Gehl 11, Ian Klinzing 10, Caleb Hedberg 6, Zach Rajala 2.
3-point goals — Anderson 5, Pajtash.