“I was really pleased with our girls’ mental toughness,” Cougars coach Christine Eckles said. “We got down and could’ve gave up. But we didn’t. We stuck together, played good team basketball down the stretch and were able to pull away and get a victory.”
Spanish Springs led 36-24 after a Riley Holladay layup at the 4:57 mark of the third period. Unfortunately for the Cougars, a flurry of turnovers mixed with a few quick shots and some bad luck over the next six-plus minutes. Meanwhile, McQueen found some offense and put together a 17-4 spurt.
Back-to-back buckets by Taylor Baker capped the outburst and gave McQueen a 41-40 lead with 6:20 to go in the contest. It was the hosts first lead since 10-8.
Spanish Springs got a 3-point play from Laneesha Terrance to go back on top 43-41. McQueen responded with a pair of Baker foul shots to tie the game at 43 apiece with 5:20 showing on the fourth-quarter clock.
That’s as good as it got for the Lancers. Spanish Springs reeled off 11 unanswered points that started a 15-4 Cougars run to close out the conference clash. At one point early in the run, the Sparks school executed set plays for uncontested layups on three-straight possessions.
While Baker scored six McQueen points in the first two and a half minutes of the fourth quarter, she did not score in the final five minutes of the game. It was her twin sister, Sierra Baker, that kept McQueen within striking distance in the first half and keyed the Lancers’ second-half run. She had 18 points through the first three quarters and scored the initial basket of the final period, but failed to score again, largely because of the lockdown defense of Cougars sophomore reserve Myrissa Prince.
“I thought the difference in the fourth quarter was when we got defensive stops,” Eckles said. “Then we were able to execute some offensive sets and we made some free throws. We did the things we expect to do for 32 minutes, but we only did them for about six.
“Myrissa Prince was really key. I thought Sierra sort of took the game over a bit in the third quarter. We were not doing a good job individually or as team of making her get rid of the ball. We are lucky we can go to Myrissa and say ‘don’t let her catch it.’ She was big part of this win.”
Spanish Springs got off to a good start, scoring eight of the game’s first 10 points. Still, McQueen trailed only 12-10 at the first quarter’s conclusion.
After McQueen made it 12-12 30 seconds into the second quarter, Spanish Springs grabbed the momentum with a 13-2 run. A free throw by Morning Rose Tobey capped the burst and saw the guests forge ahead 25-14 with 2:55 to go before the break.
A Holladay layup gave Spanish Springs its biggest lead of the first half, 30-18, but Sierra Baker dropped in a layup as time expired on the first half, leaving the scoreboard to read 30-20 at the intermission.
Sierra Baker finished with 20 points and Taylor Baker 14 but the rest of the MHS roster combined for just 11 points.
McQueen (7-3, 2-2) shot 50 percent (17-of-34) from the floor but was hurt by its limited number of shots. The Lancers turned the ball over 26 times.
Spanish Springs helped its cause by winning the rebounding battle, 29-24.
Holladay paced the Cougars’ offense with 16 points, connecting on 8 of 12 shots from the floor. She also chipped in seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Sam Owens contributed 13 points for Spanish Springs while Lyndsey Anderson added 11 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Cougars improved to 8-2 overall and 3-1 in league play. They return to action Tuesday at Galena at 6 p.m.
Offensive woes hurt the Spanish Springs Cougars against McQueen. The SSHS club dropped a 44-41 affair on the road against the Lancers in a High Desert League battle in northwest Reno.
The 41-point output was the second-lowest of the year for the Cougars, who fell to 5-4 overall and 1-3 in league play.
Spanish Springs found itself facing a 41-28 deficit after McQueen’s Dakota Allinson got a runner in the lane to fall with 6:48 remaining in the game. That’s when Spanish Springs started a furious fourth-quarter rally to get back in contention.
The Cougars scored 13 of the next 14 points to trim McQueen’s lead to 42-41. That came after Brandon Delong knocked down an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key with 55 seconds left.
After a timeout, Spanish Springs got the ball back down two, 43-41, with 10 seconds remaining. The Cougars got the ball inside to their big man Austin Damoth, but his kick-out pass was stolen and McQueen survived for the key conference victory.
“We are playing a lot of young guys down the stretch in the fourth quarter, three sophomores and a junior that hasn’t played much,” McQueen coach John Franklin said. “We’re trying to grow up, but the problem is we’re trying to do it in the heat of battle, on the court and it’s tough.
“But I was proud of the way the kids pulled it out, hung on and won it.”
Damoth finished with a game-high 14 points.
The Cougars came out hot, jumping to a 6-0 lead two minutes into the game. They could not sustain that momentum and McQueen led 15-11 by the end of the first quarter.
The hosts took a 25-20 lead into the locker room at the intermission. The Lancers came out of halftime with a 12-2 run to take control of the game. They led 37-22 midway through the third for their biggest advantage of the night.
Allinson led the Lancers (5-3, 2-2) in scoring with 12 points.
“It wasn’t just the third quarter that hurt us, most of the first half and the third quarter,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “We came out strong, executing the things we’d worked on the past two days. And then we all started doing our own thing.”
Spanish Springs gets six days off before playing again, Thursday at North Valleys at 7:30 p.m.