Spanish Springs and Carson met for the first time since the SSHS crew ended the Senators' season a year ago with a 53-45 victory at CHS in a North Region quarterfinal playoff last February. Spanish Springs earned another close victory on the strength of a key crunchtime run.
The Cougars, who outscored Carson 18-10 in the fourth quarter Tuesday, trailed 28-25 after three periods of play. Spanish Springs got a 3-pointer from Mariah Vargas at the 4:21 mark of the fourth quarter. The hosts didn't trail again.
The Vargas trey was the start of a 12-2 Spanish Springs spurt. The run ended after Cougars junior forward Katrina Prendergast buried a pair of free throws. Prendergast, who knocked down 5-of-6 shots from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter, earned the trek to the foul line, with 25 seconds remaining in the game, after pulling down an offensive rebound following a missed Cougars free throw.
Spanish Springs led by seven, 43-36 when the key run came to a close. Carson tacked on two free throws with nine seconds remaining to account for the final five-point margin but the damage had been done.
"We held them down and did a good job defensively," first-year Spanish Springs coach Art Cardenas said. "They played us in a diamond-and-one defensively, but once we got the lead, we were able to spread them out. We made them come out of it and we hit some free throws down the stretch."
The host Cougars led 10-9 after the first period, but saw Carson grab a 16-12 edge by the intermission. Spanish Springs looked like it might take control after it opened the second half with a 7-0 run, capped by a Vargas 3-pointer.
That was not the case as Carson responded with a 7-0 outburst of its own and continued to lead by four, 23-19.
Cardenas lauded his senior point guard, all-league standout Hannah Woytek. She handled 32 minutes of full-court pressure from the Senators (10-12, 6-7) and finished with a game-high 13 points while dishing out seven assists.
"They pressured Hannah full court the entire game," Cardenas said. "They tried to be physical with her and she did a great job keeping her composure and getting us into our offense. She attacked the basket and got to the foul line. She was awesome for us tonight."
Vargas added 11 points and eight rebounds to the Cougars' winning cause while Adriana Pennington chipped in eight points and 10 rebounds for the SSHS club.
Spanish Springs (15-7, 6-7) plays Hug at home Friday when the Cougars will celebrate Senior Night. Tipoff is slated for 5:15 p.m.