Having been idle for a week, the Solon Comets’ basketball team returned to action but weren’t at full strength. Solon’s lack of depth was too much to overcome and lost 67-57 to Green last Thursday evening at Uniontown.
“I thought our guys could’ve used the excuse that we were missing guys and short-handed to give in a little bit but they never let that happen,” said Coach Tony DeCesare. “They just continued to fight and believed that they were going to pull it out in the end. We weren’t able to against Green but it wasn’t for a lack of effort, toughness or want-to.”
The Comets (4-2, 2-0) thought the worst was behind them last year but once again, their season was halted due to COVID. Solon returned to the court on Dec. 29 for its home opener against Wooster and posted a 75-71 victory.
Although the Comets were back, several players were still in health and safety protocols. Solon was without six players including two of its top three leading scorers.
That did not stop the Comets from taking a 13-10 lead against Green in the opening period.
Junior point guard Rayquan Thompson pushed Solon ahead in the first quarter by scoring four points. With the bulk of Solon’s scoring sidelined, the 6-foot-0 guard had more responsibility to ignite the offense.
According to DeCesare, Thompson did a good job of being aggressive and created several scoring opportunities for his teammates.
While the Comets developed a rhythm on offense, their defense slowed down Green’s offense.
“We were able to do a good job of turning them over in the first quarter,” said the seven-year coach. “I thought our pressure was very good. We were also able to do a good job of keeping them out of what they do well in the half-court and I think they were uncomfortable early on in the game and I think that was a testament to how well our guys defended early.”
Thompson continued leading the offense with seven points in the second quarter but the Bulldogs turned up the pressure.
DeCesare noted the Comets stopped making shots and Green used its size to control the glass and get out in transition. The Bulldogs continued punishing Solon on the offensive glass and overtook the Comets with a 28-25 lead at halftime.
“That was the key to the game,” admitted DeCesare. “Green’s size and toughness on the offensive glass gave them a lot of second and third chances. I thought our defense was really good early on but they probably rebounded more of their misses than we did over the course of the night and that got them a lot of easy baskets as the night went on which got us into foul trouble. When we only had eight guys, that was a challenge that we weren’t able to overcome.”
The Bulldogs’ physical style of play began wearing down Solon in the third quarter. Green used post-ups and screens to free up its shooters and the Comets could not keep up as the offense went cold with Thompson only scoring three points in the third quarter.
Just two nights removed from playing the full 32 minutes against Wooster, DeCesare said the fatigue caught up with Thompson.
DeCesare usually avoids giving so many minutes to his players but because Solon was short-handed over this two-game stretch, he leaned more heavily on Thompson.
Thompson appeared to reach his limit in the third quarter and the Bulldogs outscored Solon 17-9 to take an 11-point lead into the final period.
“I think if you’re asking one guy to be the creator all the time, good teams are able to load up on him and make it harder for him,” noted DeCesare. “Just having some other guys to take the pressure off Rayquan is what makes us a pretty good basketball team.”
Thompson found his second wind in the fourth quarter and scored 15 points to trim Green’s lead to eight points with two minutes remaining.
The Comets had a chance to cut the lead to six points after forcing a turnover but could not convert and Green scored again extending its lead to ten points.
Although Solon’s rally failed, DeCesare was pleased with the resiliency he saw especially from his younger players.
“The biggest thing that came out of these last two games is seeing we’re deeper than maybe even than I thought we were,” he said. “There’s a toughness about this group that I really like.”
Thompson led Solon with 29 points followed by junior guard Caleb Walker who scored 14 points while sophomore forward Brady Rollyson paced the Bulldogs with 15 points and senior guard Zack Oddo tallied 14 points.
Following a home game against Greater Cleveland Conference foe Medina on Jan. 4, the Comets will hit the road and face conference rival Euclid on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m.