The South Shore Cardinals opened with a 13-3 run and never looked back, defeating the Solon Springs Eagles 85-46 in Solon Springs in boys basketball action on Monday, Jan. 4.

The game was the Eagles’ first of the season after a delayed start due to COVID-19 protocols.

“The game was kind of spinning for some guys,” said Solon Springs head coach Marcus Besonen. “As much as you try to simulate game speed in practice, you’re never going to fully achieve that.

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“We were trying to get going at game speed, and we were losing responsibility on guys like Koy (Nelson) and their other shooters — you can’t give those guys space.”

Nelson scored a game-high 39 points, including the first six points of the game on two 3-pointers. The junior guard singlehandedly outscored Solon Springs in the first half, with 20 points to the Eagles’ 19, in addition to helping navigate the Eagles’ zone press throughout the game.

“To be honest, we came out and shot hot,” said South Shore coach Jack Nelson. “The first half, it just felt like everything was going in.”

Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (44) keeps his hand up as he defends South Shore’s Koy Nelson (3) in the first half of the game in Solon Springs Monday, Jan. 4. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Solon Springs’ Abe Ahlberg (44) keeps his hand up as he defends South Shore’s Koy Nelson (3) in the first half of the game in Solon Springs Monday, Jan. 4. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

The Cardinals shot a sizzling 9-for-17 (53%) from behind the arc in the first half and finished with 12 3-pointers in the game. They attempted just four 3-pointers in the second half, and none in the final 10 minutes.

South Shore (4-1) maintained a sustained lead of at least 20 points after about 10 minutes of play. Only four Cardinals scored Monday night, but all scored in double-digits: in addition to Nelson’s 39, seniors Jake Winge and Matthew Montgomery scored 18 and 13, respectively, and sophomore Carter Lulich added 15. Freshman Dylan Taggart led Solon Springs with 12 points.

The Cardinals matched their high-powered offense with a stifling 2-3 zone in the half court, forcing the Eagles (0-1) to turn the ball over 24 times. At one point in the first half, Solon Springs had committed 11 turnovers to South Shore’s three.

“Today we did a better job talking on defense, doing the little things,” Nelson said. “But Solon’s playing their first game, so we’re taking this with a grain of salt. I know they’re going to get a lot better — I know next time will be a tough fight.”

Solon Springs’ Calin Lisson (24) pulls a rebound away from South Shore’s Matthew Montgomery (12) and teammate Isaiah Kastern (50) in the first half of the game in Solon Springs Monday, Jan.4. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Solon Springs’ Calin Lisson (24) pulls a rebound away from South Shore’s Matthew Montgomery (12) and teammate Isaiah Kastern (50) in the first half of the game in Solon Springs Monday, Jan.4. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Monday’s contest was played in a nearly empty gym, with no fans allowed as a precaution during the pandemic. Still, the gym wasn’t lacking energy: each bench served as its team’s de facto cheering section.

“We’re just loving being able to practice, and now finally getting our first game, I think guys are so jacked up that they’re having a hard time controlling themselves a little bit,” said Besonen, a smile evident from behind his mask.

“The boys are doing a fantastic job and aren’t complaining at all,” Nelson said of his South Shore squad during the uncertainty of the pandemic. “They want to play. We’re so grateful to our school board and our county for allowing us to play. Every game is a gift.”

South Shore 19-27 – 46

Solon Springs 43-42 – 85

South Shore — Koy Nelson 39, Matthew Montgomery 13, Jake Winge 18, Carter Lulich 15. Totals 32 9-12 85.

3-point goals — Nelson 7, Montgomery 3, Winge, Lulich

Solon Springs — Elijah Molina 3, Braydon Larson 7, Gage Blaylock 5, Calin Lisson 6, Dylan Taggart 12, Abe Ahlberg 5, Isaiah Kastern 8. Totals 20 0-2 46.

3-point goals — Molina, Larson, Blaylock, Taggart 2, Ahlberg

Solon Springs’ Calin Lisson (24) goes above the rim in an attempt to block a finger roll by South Shore’s Carter Lulich (33) at the end of the first half of the game in Solon Springs Monday, Jan. 4. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)
Solon Springs’ Calin Lisson (24) goes above the rim in an attempt to block a finger roll by South Shore’s Carter Lulich (33) at the end of the first half of the game in Solon Springs Monday, Jan. 4. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

This story was updated at 12:17 p.m. to reflect the correct spelling of Dylan Taggart's name. It was originally posted at 8:33 a.m. The Telegram regrets the error.