After both sides shook off a little rust in the first minutes of the contest, the teams fought back-and-forth as neither was able to create separation. Behind a strong defensive effort in the second half though, Spanish Springs (11-4, 5-1 High Desert League) proved too much for the Miners as SSHS clamped down on Manogue en route to grabbing a 67-56 victory.
Through the first 16 minutes of play, neither side was able to grab a decisive advantage as the Cougars went into the intermission holding a slim 28-25 edge.
To open the second half, Manogue surged ahead momentarily at 30-29, two minutes into the third quarter. From there, SSHS took over.
Going into a full-court press, the Cougars pounced on Manogue as they allowed the Miners to cross half-court just three times over the next four minutes. Feeding off the increased energy, Spanish Springs converted on multiple turnovers.
Junior guard Kenny Meyer got things started with a quick steal and layup. Senior forward TJ McCauley then ran the length of the court after a steal of his own, side stepped a defender and laid home a bucket. Junior Hunter Fralick followed suit with a scoop and score of his own as SSHS rushed ahead with a 12-4 run to close out the third quarter, leaving the scoreboard reading 41-34 in favor of the visiting squad.
“We had to change the tempo of the game,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said of the defensive momentum swing. “We felt that they couldn’t do a good job of handling the pressure, so we brought some full-court pressure, which we normally don’t do a lot of. We were able to get some turnovers and get some separation and some momentum. We also gave momentum away at the same time, but we were able to get enough ourselves to get us over the hump and get some guys some confidence. From there they made some plays late to close it out.”
Spanish Springs opened the fourth quarter with a pair of triples to increase its lead. Senior guard Connor Naisbitt pulled up in transition, draining a three from the top of the key. Next McCauley came off a screen and drilled a three from the wing to put the Cougars up 47-35 a minute into the fourth.
The Miners mounted a slight comeback effort with the contest’s next eight points to cut the deficit back to single digits at 47-43 with just over five minutes to play. However, another 12-4 Cougars run in a three-minute span sealed the victory.
McCauley led the winning effort with a team-high 16 points. Fralick chipped in with 11 points. Junior guard Hunter Pinto also contributed 10 points to the victory while Meyer finished with eight on the night.
Penney was happy to leave Manogue with the victory, but he said there is still a lot the Cougars can improve upon.
“Free throws and foul trouble for us were a huge difference,” he said. “They went to the line a lot and made their free throws. That also slowed the pace of the game down for them. I think they had 18 field goals, yet they scored 56 points. We have to stop fouling at that point. We have to do a better job defending.
“We have to learn from winning. We have to go back to the basics and do some on-ball defense. We just have to be ready to make plays. We didn’t shoot the ball real well today so the next couple of days we’ll get some shots up and work on some fundamental defense and hopefully be ready for Tuesday.”
Spanish Springs will return to league action at McQueen on Tuesday at 7 p.m.