“I just feel like Carson wanted it a little bit more than us,” Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said. “They just played a little bit harder and they executed. They looked a little calmer with what they did. We looked really stressed. We were kind of looking around and looked caught off guard.
“We just didn’t take care of business. I thought we had some open looks but we didn’t finish shots. It’s just frustrating. I don’t think that we handled their pressure well. They kind of double-teamed us in the backcourt and we just didn’t have our head up and looking up the floor. We just didn’t do a lot of things that I thought we did well throughout the season. We folded under the pressure tonight.”
The Cougars jumped out to a 9-0 advantage to open the contest, holding the Senators without a basket during the first five minutes of the game. Spanish Springs held a 13-5 lead at the end of the first quarter before seven unanswered points from the Cougs kicked the second quarter off, pushing their lead to 20-5 with 3:21 until halftime. After the 15-point lead, it was all downhill for the visitors.
Closing out the first half with a 9-2 spurt, Carson cut the gap to 22-14 and began its comeback.
Despite shooting 4-for-24 (16.7 percent) in the first half, Carson coach Todd Ackerman said the fact that his team was still hanging around was a huge factor.
“It was big,” Ackerman said. “They allowed us to stay in the game.”
Spanish Springs initially appeared as though it would resist as it used a pair of 3-pointers from Sam Owens and MorningRose Tobey to open the third quarter and extend its lead back to double digits at 28-18 with 6:05 left in the quarter. From that point, Purple and Silver’s fans would not like what they saw.
Keyed by two treys from guard Savannah Smith, the hosts used a full-court press that unraveled the Cougars. Over the next five minutes, Spanish Springs went scoreless as the Senators shot out to their first lead of the game with a 14-0 eruption that put the home squad ahead 32-28.
Two free throws from Lyndsey Anderson broke the Cougs’ dry spell, but a layup by Carson’s Emily Collins kept the hosts’ edge at four points with the scoreboard reading 34-30 as one quarter remained.
“We just picked it up in the third quarter,” Ackerman said. “Emily hit some shots and Savannah got to the basket a couple of times. The other kids stepped up and picked up the slack for Eliza (Matley).”
Carsons’ all-league guard, Eliza Matley, was limited to five points.
With eight minutes left before its season was potentially cut short, Spanish Springs was not ready to throw in the towel.
A layup from Tobey on a fast break followed by a pair of free throws from Anderson knotted the game up at 34-34 with six minutes left on the clock. Sophomore guard Myrissa Prince then hit a jumper from the baseline to hand the advantage back to the Cougars.
The lead did not remain in the Cougars’ possession long as a Smith drive and layup tied the game back up before Matley weaved through traffic in the lane to drop in a bucket that put the score back in favor of the Senators, 38-36 with 3:36 still to play.
Frantically trying to claw its way back into the lead, Spanish Springs was unable to get any of its shots to fall over the final minutes of the game as its season dwindled away.
“They just got hot,” Eckles said. “They were 9-of-12 in the third. A lot of their shots were contested shots. I thought we did a good job of getting our hands up. They just put the ball in the bucket. So congratulations to them.
“We just didn’t do a good job up front a couple of times. We didn’t help over and gave them easy looks on some defensive breakdowns for us. They got hot and that gave them momentum. We got a little bit nervous. Maybe that’s inexperience in big games but that’s why we needed it. I’m just upset we weren’t able to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Anderson led the Cougars with a team-high 13 points. Tobey also chipped in with 10.
Smith was the only player for the Senators to eclipse double digits in points, tallying a game-high 15 points.
Spanish Springs shot 14-of-42 (33.3 percent) from the field on the night, going 4-of-20 (20 percent) in the crucial second half. Carson went 16-of-44 (36.4 percent) for the game, connecting on 10-of-22 (60 percent) over the final 16 minutes. The Senators won the rebounding battle 36-31.
With its entire roster returning, Spanish Springs will be looking forward to next season to redeem itself.
“I think it’s been a great season,” Eckles said. “We have a good team and we don’t lose anybody so we’re pleased with that, but we had a little bit higher goals for this year. We wanted to be playing at our place and so we’re very disappointed but it’s a great group of girls and I know how bad they wanted to win. I know they’re disappointed.”