Spanish Springs held Hug to just eight second-half points and pulled away late for a 46-34 High Desert League home win in a prep girls basketball tilt. A lackluster Cougars defensive effort in the first half resulted in just five Hug turnovers. They forced 11 after halftime.
Spanish Springs also helped its cause by doing a better job on the glass. Each team had 20 rebounds after the second quarter, but Spanish Springs wound up winning the war on the boards 43-37 thanks to the strength of 19 offensive rebounds.
The hosts held a huge advantage at the charity stripe. Spanish Springs shot a medicore 17-of-32 but it was much more productive than Hug’s 3-of-6.
“We started getting stops and pushing the ball up the floor or getting our hands on it and getting steals,” Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said of her team’s improved second half. “Then we were getting the tempo to where we could get easy shots and easy looks at the basket. Once we started pushing the tempo we were able to attack the basket a little more and put them on their heels. That allowed us to get to the free-throw line, which is what we needed. We didn’t shoot a very good percentage but at least we got there enough to help us win the basketball game.”
Spanish Springs dominated the first conference clash between the two schools last month, rolling out to a 14-0 lead to start the game en route to a 54-29 road win. That was not the case Friday.
Hug scored the first six points of the game and held the momentum through much of the first half.
Spanish Springs did respond from the early deficit to lead 16-12 after a corner 3-pointer by Riley Holladay. The Cougars’ lead was still four, 20-16, after a runner in the lane by Holladay with 5:49 left in the second quarter.
But the Cougars could not put the Hawks away early on. A 10-1 Hawks spurt capped by a Jessica Voyles 3-pointer with 40 seconds remaining in the first half lifted the visitors into a 26-21 lead.
Hug led 26-22 at the intermission, but the second half was all Spanish Springs.
There wasn’t much scoring in the third period but the little there was came from Spanish Springs, and nearly all at the free-throw line. The Cougars outscored the Hawks 11-2 in the third and with the luxury of only one field goal.
Lyndsey Anderson knocked down 1 of 2 foul shots at the 2:47 mark of the third period to give Spanish Springs a 27-26 lead, its first edge since midway through the second quarter.
Hug’s Shaina Carthen got a breakaway layup when the Hawks broke the Cougars pressure, one of the few times they did in the second half. The bucket put Hug ahead 28-27 with 2:36 showing on the third-period clock.
It was the Hawks’ final lead of the night. Spanish Springs regained the lead on an Anderson basket, 29-28, with just over two minutes to go in the third.
With nearly a minute and a half still on the third-period clock, the Cougars had not made a substitution in the second half. Cougars coach Christine Eckles made wholesale changes, swapping in five reserves, figuring it might be the only chance to get her starters a respite the rest of the way.
The strategy worked. The Cougar reserves did not turn the ball over or give up any Hug points in their brief stretch. In fact, Chrissy Beebe and KK Lang were fouled on the only two Spanish Springs offensive possessions through the remainder of the third period and both sophomores made a pair of free throws apiece.
“That was huge,” Eckles said. “It was a little bit of a gamble that ended up paying off big for us. I don’t know the last time we played that group on the floor, but the starters were exhausted and I knew we needed to get them a break to win the game in the fourth quarter … If we don’t get that, I’m not sure we’ve got enough in the tank at the finish. It was definitely a key to winning the game.”
Spanish Springs took a 33-28 lead to the fourth. It looked like Hug would try to hang around after Christen Voyles drained a trey, trimming the Cougars’ lead to 33-31 nine seconds into the final quarter.
It could not. Spanish Springs outscored Hug 13-3 the rest of the way to secure the victory and ensure itself of a fifth-straight winning season. The Cougars wrap up their regular season with a 14-12 overall mark and an 8-8 conference record.
Anderson led the Cougars to victory with a 17-point, 16-rebound effort. Her 16 rebounds tied a school record, accomplished three other times, the last by Kelly Hernandez against Hug in January of 2009.
“In the first half, I was a little frustrated wither her because she was not finishing difficult shots. We take it for granted because she makes difficult shots game after game. When they don’t fall I’m mad at her, but realistically she doesn’t get easy shots, but then she’s consistently putting up 15 points and 10 rebounds. I do know how hard she works every possession, every play. I don’t take that for granted. She just finds a way. She’s an amazing kid.”
Holladay added 11 points and six rebounds to the winning effort.
Spanish Springs helped its cause by committing only eight turnovers in the contest and just three after halftime.
Hug got 10 points from Celeste Henderson, but none of those came in the second half. Additionally, Spanish Springs limited Hug’s leading scorer, Jessica Voyles, to six points. She was also held scoreless in the second two quarters. “I think we did a much better job in the second half on (Jessica) Voyles,” Eckles said. “We were limiting her ability to get in the key and either get a higher percentage shot or kick out to somebody for a wide open look.”
Spanish Springs, the High Desert League’s No. 4 seed, opens the postseason with a first-round Northern 4A regional playoff game at Sierra League champion Galena. Tip-off is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Galena.