Spanish Springs was handed a 73-67 loss at North Valleys Thursday night, dropping the Sparks school to 5-5 overall and 1-4 in conference clashes.
Conversely, North Valleys is just 1-7 and 1-4 so far this season, but the Panthers got it going Thursday night. North Valleys got a putback from Jalil Walker at the 2:36 mark of the third period to forge ahead 51-35. The 16-point lead was the widest gap of the night.
“We don’t guard the ball very well, never have,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “It’s something we’ve been working on. We get too close to our guy and get too greedy. We don’t have the work ethic to perform. We don’t apply pressure and stay in front by moving our feet. We get up and they blow by us.”
That’s about the time the Cougars started to fight back. Sophomore guard Jake Longero buried a 3-pointer from the corner as time expired as time expired on the third period to get the visitors within 10, 54-44.
The Cougars continued to fight back. A Brandon dealing layup saw Spanish Springs trim the North Valleys lead to three, 54-41 at the 7:14 mark of the fourth quarter.
The host Panthers scored six of the next eight points to extend their edge to seven, 60-53. Still, Spanish Springs was not ready to roll over and play dead. Connor Naisbitt drained a 3-pointer for the Cougars that capped a 10-2 SSHS spurt. The trey on a kickout pulled Spanish Springs within one, 62-61 with 3:07 on the game clock.
North Valleys pushed ahead 69-65 but was called for a foul with 1:22 to go. A technical foul followed giving the Cougars four free throws and possession. That sequence could have swung the momentum, but Spanish Springs missed three of the four free throws and did not score on the possession. North Valleys went down and scored on its ensuing possession thanks to a Mason Black layup.
That gave the Panthers (1-7, 1-4) a five-point, 71-66 lead and virtually iced the hosts win.
“That’s the ball game right there,” Penney said. “We could have tied it with the free throws and then got the ball. We had a chance to take the game. We did a lot of good things. We made that run and put ourselves in a position to take it … but then we miss three of the four free throws and our body language fell. You still have to make the next play.”
Spanish Springs got off to an early 8-4 lead midway through the first period, but North Valleys responded and held a 15-14 lead by quarter’s end. The Panthers outscored the Cougars 18-10 in the second quarter and held a 33-24 lead at halftime.
Delong scored 28 points while Naisbitt chipped in 11 toward the Cougars’ losing cause.
Gled Bautista led four Panthers in double digits, finishing with 22 points. Mauricio Valera posted 17 while Blake and Walker had 14 and 11 respectively.
“We just played intense,” North Valleys coach Dick Peraldo said. “We talked about the way you practice is the way you play in game. Our key terms tonight were heart, hustle, passion, fire and intensity. I saw that from our kids the entire game. I saw that even when they cut it to four and we got the tech. We bent but we didn’t break.”
Spanish Springs in San Diego against Tesoro Tuesday during a Christmas Break tournament.