By Jeff Linder
DES MOINES — Seasons change. But for the Solon Spartans, the result remains the same.
Top-ranked Solon shook off a slow start and handled No. 4 Pella Christian, 55-41, to capture the Class 2A championship at the boys’ state basketball tournament last night at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Spartans finished 28-0. And that comes on the heels of a 14-0, state-championship season in football.
Solon is the first 2A school to complete the football/basketball sweep in a single school year.
“It’s just a tremendous group of athletes and a tremendous community,” said Spartans Coach Brad Randall. “This will be remembered as a special era in Solon history.”
Matt Morrison was the quarterback on back-to-back championship football teams. Friday, he was named the all-tournament captain.
“This is just awesome,” he said. “Basketball is my main sport. I’ve put so many hours into it.
“To reach the top, I can’t ask for anything more. This is just spectacular.”
Solon was sluggish through the early stages of the game and trailed 16-11 when the Eagles’ Eli Groenendyk nailed a 3-pointer with 4:30 left in the first half.
The Spartans closed the half with a 15-3 rush and led, 26-19, at intermission.
Morrison, who scored 34 points in a captivating double-overtime win over Western Christian in the semifinals Thursday, was scoreless through the first 13 minutes before warming up. He finished with a game-high 15 points.
“I think (the semifinal game) had something to do with (the slow start),” Morrison said. “We just had to get our legs back. We had our legs at the end.”
Solon applied the knockout punch at the beginning of the third quarter, scoring the first seven points. The lead was 33-19, and Pella Christian (26-2) never got closer than 11 again.
Tucker Wentzien posted 10 points and 10 rebounds and joined Morrison on the all-tournament team.
Cody Strang came off the bench to score 10 points, making all five of his field goal tries.
Ben Weeks scored nine points, Ben Bergman added eight points and eight boards.
Solon held the Eagles to 31-percent shooting (15 of 49). And though the Spartans had four more turnovers, they enjoyed a decisive 23-3 advantage in points off turnovers.
“Our defense played really well,” Weeks said. “We thought if we kept the ball out of (Cliff) Warner’s hands and forced them to take jump shots, we would succeed.”
Groenendyk paced Pella Christian with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Bill Nolte added 10 points. Warner was 3-for-14 from the floor and finished with seven points and seven turnovers.
The Spartans will be honored at the high school gymnasium at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Celebrations are common at Solon, but usually in November, not March.
“It’s now a reality that we’re No. 1,” Randall said. “It’s a great, great feeling.”