Whether Hug ran out of gas or not is unclear, but one thing that was clear cut Thursday was that Spanish Springs was fresh and ready to play. The Cougars turned in an inspired effort and handed Hug its first league loss, dumping the Hawks 64-46 in a High Desert League boys prep basketball tilt.
“This was a big game,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “It’s our last league before we go on break. We had to have it. We had to win and take care of business. We had three days to prepare. We knew what to expect and we knew we had to rise to the occasion.”
Thursday night’s game was Hug’s second of the day as it played in Sparks High’s annual Rail City Classic earlier in the afternoon. So did the busy stretch turn out to be too much for Hug?
“I don’t want to use that as an excuse,” first-year Hawks coach Keith Crawford said. “We played Sparks earlier today and I rested my core group of guys. Spanish Springs wanted it more. They were the tougher team tonight.
“They beat us to loose balls. They out-rebounded us. They out-ran us … The bottom line is they had more energy than we did. They beat us to spots on the floor all night.”
Spanish Springs (8-2, 4-1) never trailed in the conference clash. The key Cougars’ run came in the second quarter. Hug’s Rian Narra knocked down a pull-up jumper to pull the Hawks within two, 19-17, at the 5:21 mark of the period. Spanish Springs proceeded to rip off the next 10 points, a spurt highlighted by a pair of TJ McCauley 3-pointers. Austin Damoth capped the run with a putback that left the Cougars on top 29-17 with 2:39 left before the break.
Hug (9-4, 4-1) never got closer than nine points throughout the remainder of the league affair.
Spanish Springs led 31-22 at the half. The Cougars extended their edge to 11, 45-34, by outscoring Hug 14-12 in the third period.
McCauley, who led all scorers with a game-high 29 points, scored three points as the SSHS hoopsters opened the fourth quarter on a modest 8-3 outburst. That forged the Cougars into a 53-36 lead with five minutes left in the game.
McCauley finished 12-of-19 from the field, including 4-of-7 from 3-point land. He also snared 11 rebounds.
“Some of those shots weren’t easy,” McCauley said with a wry smile. “To be honest, Coach Penney sets plays up for everybody. I was just lucky to get those shots tonight.”
While McCauley was humble in victory, Penney had plenty of praise for his 6-foot 6-inch swingman.
“He did hit some tough shots,” Penney said. “But he does that every day in practice. When he brings his energy, enthusiasm and he shoots it well, he really helps us.”
It looked like Hug might have a run left in it. The Hawks scored six straight points in less than a minute, to get within 11, 53-42.
There would be no Hawks comeback. Spanish Springs made sure of that. The Cougars wound up scoring 11 of the next 13 points, a run wrapped up by back-to-back putbacks by McCauley.
That tell-tale run gave Spanish Springs a 64-44 advantage, the largest lead of the night.
“He (McCauley) made a few shots with (Hug center) Sam (Williams) right on him,” Crawford said. “To his credit, he knocked down shots. My hat’s off to him.”
McCauley and a host of SSHS defenders did a solid job on Hug’s all-league center candidate, Williams, limiting him to 12 points in the game. Narra scored 14 points to lead Hug’s scoring in defeat.
Spanish Springs shot a stellar 25-of-49 (51 percent) from the floor. The Hawks shut down Cougars standout guard Kenny Meyer, holding him to just four points. However, along with McCauley, Damoth helped the Cougars dominate in the paint, pouring in 17 points of his own.
The Cougars are in the midst of a 10-day span where they play just Thursday’s game against Hug. Spanish Springs should be well-rested when it returns to the hardwood, Dec. 26 at 7:30 p.m. against Bingham, Utah in the San Diego Classic.