Spanish Springs bolted out to an 11-0 lead five minutes into the conference clash and was never really threatened by its hosts.
"Silly mistakes and lapses in judgement cost us," North Valleys coach Dick Peraldo said. That's pretty much been the tale of our season. We always give up spurts of 8-10-12 points. Teams put runs on us and that's been our Achilles' heel all year."
The visiting Cougars led 15-7 after one period, but made four free throws in the first 40 seconds of the second period to go on top 19-7.
North Valleys trimmed the lead to 19-11 a minute later. The score was 22-13 after a Panthers outburst with 6:07 remaining before halftime. Unfortunately for North Valleys, that was the last time it found itself within single digits.
Spanish Springs wound up taking a 38-27 lead into halftime.
The Cougars blew the game open in the third period. A Geld Bautista 3-pointer pulled the Panthers within 10, 40-30 with 7:04 showing on the third-quarter clock. Spanish Springs responded by reeling off 13 straight points. Tremor Shetrawski capped the outburst with a tip-in and a 3-pointer that left the guests on top 53-30 with just under two minutes left in the third period.
The 23-point margin was the widest of the night.
"We defended a lot better (in the third period)," Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. "I got on them at halftime that we were just happy exchanging buckets. The difference was good defense. We had a good first quarter and a good third quarter.
The fourth-quarter play was ugly marred by foul-plagued action. North Valleys trimmed the Spanish Springs lead to 13, 63-50 with 1:43 to go in the game, but it could get no closer.
Brandon Delong paced the Cougars' offense with 20, while his teammates Shetrawski and Ryan Swanson chipped in 14 and 10 points respectively.
Gled Bautista finished with 16 to lead North Valleys (1-20, 1-13) while Jordan Diguilio added 12 in defeat.
Spanish Springs, which missed the Northern 4A playoffs a year ago, clinched its third postseason trip in four years with Friday's win. Penney was pleased with that news, but he knows as the HDL's likely No. 4 seed, his team have to defend more consistently if is to compete with either Sierra League frontrunner Manogue or Douglas.
"Absolutely we have to play a full four quarters," Penney said. "We have to get a lot better. If we're playing Manogue or Douglas, we need a game in the 60s or less. If it's not, that's not good for us."
Spanish Springs (10-13, 7-7), which has two games left in its regular season, will meet Reno Tuesday at home at 7:30 p.m.