By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
MUSCATINE ? No. 1 Mt. Pleasant?s postseason journey is one win away from leading them to a second-straight state tournament berth, and only the Solon Spartans stand in their way. The Panthers and Spartans will tip off tonight (Monday) in Muscatine at 7 p.m., and a Class 3A state qualifying banner will be on hand.
Mt. Pleasant comes into tonight?s game with a 20-3 record, and the Panthers are riding a nine-game winning streak. The Panthers? three losses this year were all to quality teams.
Cedar Rapids Xavier, a team currently ranked in a tie for the Class 3A No. 1 spot with Mt. Pleasant, beat the Panthers 68-62 in the season opener. Class 4A substate finalist Dubuque Hempstead outlasted the Panthers 58-50 in Dubuque on a Saturday in December. Cedar Rapids Washington, another 4A team, beat the Panthers 68-66 on a buzzer-beater in January. Starting post Kieran Kohorst sat out the C.R. Washington game with a minor injury.
Solon is 16-7 and has put together a nice win streak of its own. The Spartans have won five straight games. The Spartans? losses have come to Epworth Western Dubuque (twice), Beckman Catholic, Benton, Mt. Vernon, Xavier and West Delaware. The Xavier loss was a 66-54 final during the Wells Fargo Advisors shootout in Cedar Rapids.
Both teams rely heavily on two scorers. Mt. Pleasant?s Brady Sartorius is scoring 23.1 points per game, and Jordan Magnani has scored 14.9 points per game. Solon is led by A.J. Coons, with 17.6 points per game, and Ben Krutzfeldt, with 14.9 points per game.
Solon was a state tournament team in 2015, holding tight with top-seeded Chariton before eventually losing steam in the fourth quarter. The Spartans were defeated by just three points against Dubuque Wahlert in the substate semifinals last season.
Mt. Pleasant hopes to have a performance mirroring last year?s substate final. The Panthers dominated Oskaloosa 70-40 in Fairfield, led by 22 points from Brady Sartorius.
The Panthers and Spartans didn?t play this season but they did have a game in Mt. Pleasant to end the 2016-17 regular season. Mt. Pleasant pulled away in the fourth quarter to win that game 68-54. Sartorius dropped 28 in the win.
Solon was led by Krutzfeldt, who filled the stat sheet with 14 points, five assists and three steals. Three of the Spartan starters have graduated since that game, while Mt. Pleasant brought back everyone besides big man Tom O?Connor.
All eight Class 3A substates will take place tonight. Among the other games in Class 3A are Glennwood vs. Harlan, Charles City vs. Waverly-Shell Rock, Oskaloosa vs. Carlisle, Sergeant Bluff-Luton vs. Bishop Heelan, Marion vs. Davenport Assumption, Xavier vs. South Tama and Norwalk vs. Winterset.