Conference title still in sight for Solon Springs boys
SOLON SPRINGS -- The Solon Springs boys basketball team remains a contender for the Indianhead Conference title after completing the first half of its conference schedule.
SOLON SPRINGS - The Solon Springs boys basketball team remains a contender for the Indianhead Conference title after completing the first half of its conference schedule.
The Eagles can clinch at least a share of the title by sweeping their remaining conference games.
Solon Springs currently sits in second place with a 7-2 record (10-4 overall). Drummond leads the conference with a 7-1 record, and Washburn rounds out the top three with a 6-2 record.
The second half of the conference season begins today, and the Eagles will be looking to avenge one of their two conference losses with a game against Ironwood, Mich.
Solon Springs opened conference play Dec. 5 with a 57-50 loss at Ironwood. The Eagles went on to win their next six conference games before falling to Drummond by a 3-point margin last week.
“I expect nothing but Ironwood’s best when they come here,” said Dale Rajala, head coach of the Eagles. “I think we’ll be a little bit more prepared since that (Dec. 5) game was our first conference game and we were still half JV and half varsity when it came to experience, so hopefully we’ll be ready for them and defend the court.”
Following today’s game with Ironwood, the Eagles face another challenge Friday with a road game at Mellen.
Solon Springs defeated Mellen 48-43 earlier this season, but the Granite Diggers (10-3, 6-3) remain in the hunt for the conference title. They have won their past four games, averaging 78 points per game over that stretch.
Senior Davin Stricker has been central to Mellen’s success. He is averaging more than 25 points per game for the Granite Diggers and put up 22 points against Solon Springs earlier this season, despite being slowed by an injury.
“I’ll probably have one or two or three guys on him,” Rajala said. “If we find a way to shut him down or contain him, then we’ll have a shot. … We just need to make some good defensive plays and hope Davin has an off night shooting.”
Both of the Eagles’ games this week are scheduled to begin at 7:15 p.m.
Solon 65, Hurley 61
The Eagles made their path to a potential conference title easier Thursday when they defeated Hurley 65-61.
Solon Springs trailed 52-43 with less than seven minutes to play, but a 19-2 run sparked by Zach Rajala and Jens Gehl gave the Eagles an eight-point lead heading into the final two minutes.
“Hurley was locked in. They were just totally in control of the game,” Coach Rajala said. “It was just pure effort on our side to try and disrupt that.”
Gehl provided the first points of the Eagles’ comeback off of Caden Smith’s pass inside. Nick Zosel and Gehl then combined for a steal in Solon’s full-court press, and Zach Rajala put in the layup to cut the lead to 52-47.
Dante Bender, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half, answered for Hurley on the other end, but Solon Springs scored the next 15 points.
First, Reid Lisson stole the ball on back-to-back possessions - resulting in two free throws for him and a three-point play for Gehl - and then Zosel tied the game at 54-54 on a pass from Alex Hunter. Rajala and Smith followed with a 3-pointer each, and Rajala finished the run a transition layup at 2:21 to give Solon Springs a 62-54 lead.
“Once the momentum shifted, it was nice to see us finish and finally hit some shots,” Dale Rajala said.
Zach Rajala scored seven points during the Eagles’ run, and Gehl added five. For the night, Gehl led all scorers with 27 points, and Rajala had 15 - all coming in the second half. Zosel also reached double figures with 11 points.
Hurley was led by Carson Thewis, who had a sizzling night at the 3-point line. The sophomore made five 3-pointers in the first half and added one more in the second as he finished with 21 points.
Isaac DeCarlo added three shots from beyond the arc, and Justin Sukanen added two to give Hurley 11 3-pointers for the game.
“I haven’t seen a team shoot in this gym like that in years,” Dale Rajala said “It was just raining on us, for the most part. And we threw everything at them: we threw our man-to-man, we came out on our zones.”
Hurley managed to take the lead in the second half behind the strength of its perimeter game.
The score was tied at 39-39 with 11:08 to play, but Thewis, DeCarlo and Sukanen all hit one 3-pointer apiece over the next four minutes, and Bender made two shots in the paint to put Hurley up 52-43.
Solon Springs answered with its 19-2 run, but Hurley managed to close the gap to four points at the final buzzer.
Hurley, led by Thewis, finished the game with nearly as many field goals from 3-point range (11) as 2-point range (13).
The Midgets were 2-of-4 at the free-throw line, while Solon Springs was 14-of-23.
Hurley....................................... 24 37 - 61
Solon Springs......................... 25 40 - 65
Hurley - Carson Thewis 21, Dante Bender 18, Isaac DeCarlo 11, Justin Sukanen 9, Ryley Eitrem 2.
3-point goals - Thewis 6, DeCarlo 3, Sukanen 2.
Solon Springs - Jens Gehl 27, Zach Rajala 15, Nick Zosel 11, Reid Lisson 7, Caden Smith 5.
3-point goals - Rajala 2, Smith.