SOLON — The Solon Spartans are alive and kicking in their bid for back-to-back Class 2A state basketball championships because of a kid from Mount Vernon. How weird does that sound?
Technically, Zach Velez-Westphal lives in Lisbon, but he transferred from Solon’s biggest rival and was the difference maker last night as the No. 4 Spartans survived Iowa City Regina, 47-38, in a 2A second-round district game.
“I don’t really know why I came here,” Velez-Westphal said. “It was for basketball. I’m glad I made the change. Hopefully we make it to state.”
A springy 6-foot-3 junior forward, Velez-Westphal wasn’t eligible until after Christmas, with last night just his 10th game. It was a good one.
He scored seven straight points to begin the fourth quarter to turn a 35-34 Solon deficit into a 41-35 lead. Velez-Westphal finished with a game-high 19 points, 14 in the second half, and eight rebounds.
“We just didn’t along with the coach, I guess,” Velez-Westphal said of his reasons for transferring. “But that’s the past. You’ve got to look to the future.”
Solon’s future is a 2A district final Tuesday against No. 10 North Cedar at Tiffin. The Spartans (21-2) crushed Regina (16-6) in a regular-season meeting, 59-27, but were fortunate to get out of their own gym with a victory in the rematch.
The Regals did a nice job surviving Solon’s vaunted 1-3-1 trapping zone, hoisting 28 3-point attempts and making seven. Sophomore point guard Ryan Lynch made four treys, a couple from NBA range.
“They make you take particular shots,” said Regina Coach Randy Larson. “You don’t get to choose what shots you get. They make you do certain things, and we thought the things they made us do were things we were good at.”
Regina could never get leading scorer Braden Lehman going, with the 6-foot-6 junior forward fouling out with just two points on 1-of-11 shooting. He came in averaging 16.6 points.
“He was a huge priority that we were going to guard him,” said Solon Coach Brad Randall. “He got some good looks, but we’d like to believe they weren’t too good.”