Early on against visiting Reno Tuesday, the Spanish Springs boys basketball team looked as though it was going to die by the three. Launching 16 treys during the first three quarters, the Cougars only hit four. Down the stretch though, the 3-pointer revived Spanish Springs as it came up big with three buckets from downtown to pull out the 53-48 victory.
“That’s basketball,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “That’s the kids being disciplined and hard-nosed. They did that tonight. It was a great game. We have a great group of kids. I love being around them. We’re young, but we’re starting to figure some things out that we didn’t figure out early on. We’re starting to grind it out a little bit. We’re not letting so many things affect us anymore, we’re continuing to defend and rebound, and offensively we started to get a little bit of a rhythm in the fourth quarter.”
After the first four minutes of the game resulted in a 3-3 tie, Reno used a 9-4 run over the remainder of the opening quarter to grab a 12-7 lead.
The second quarter was the beginning of the brick display for Spanish Springs. Tossing up eight 3-point attempts, the Cougars made just one. Reno didn’t have any better luck on the other end of the court, as it shot 4-of-15 (26.7 percent) in the second, allowing the Cougars to remain within two at the half, with the score 22-20.
Unfortunately for Spanish Springs, its shooting stayed cold coming out of the intermission.
After opening the third with a trey and a pair of free throws to tie the game at 25-25 with 6:46 remaining, the Cougars couldn’t buy a bucket. The rest of the way in the third, Spanish Springs made only 2 of 14 shots (14.3 percent). Reno took full advantage, putting together a 13-5 run on its way to a 38-30 lead with a quarter left.
Things were different right from the start of the fourth though. Taking a bounce pass in stride, Cougar swingman Brandon Delong knocked down a trey to open the final quarter. The three sparked a 12-4 Spanish Springs run, knotting the game at 42-42 with 4:21 remaining on the clock.
A free throw and corner three by the Huskies cut the run short and gave Reno (6-7 overall, 3-3 league) the lead once again at 46-42 with just over two minutes left in the game.
After converting a basket at the charity stripe, Spanish Springs caught a break when a missed free throw bounced straight to the wing and into the awaiting hands of Delong, who buried a three with 1:54 to tie the game yet again.
Two traded baskets later and the game deadlocked at 48, Delong drove hard to the basket, bringing with him two defenders, leaving guard Kenny Meyer free in the corner for the go-ahead three with 49 seconds to play.
A huge swat by T.J. McCauley on the defensive end, on Reno’s next attempt, and a pair of insurance free throws, sealed the win.
“It goes back to our kids are outstanding,” Penney said. “They listen. They executed the game plan. We told the kids all game, ‘We’re in a good spot, because we’re getting shots we want. They’re just not going in. If we continue to defend and rebound, shots will start to go,’ and in the fourth quarter they obviously went.
“The tough part about winning is learning from it. It’s easy to learn when you lose. Right now, we have to learn from when we win, too. We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to learn to stay resilient. We didn’t make open shots early on, but we grinded it out and we made shots when we had to.”
Delong led the Cougars with 21 points, including five treys. Forward Brian Smith dropped in 11 points, while Meyer closed out the game with eight.
Spanish Springs (8-8, 3-4) visits Damonte Ranch Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“I hope it’s a great momentum booster,” Penney said. “Sports are about getting on a roll. With our group of kids, I hope that it continues in that situation for us, where it becomes us being more hungry and more hungry and we keep all these good, positive vibes going.”
— GIRLS —
With a chance to stay among the top teams in the High Desert League standings, while also making a statement against perennial power Reno, Spanish Springs fell victim to a poor shooting night as it was unable to keep pace with the Huskies at home Tuesday evening, losing 55-39.
The lackluster shooting performance doomed the Cougars as they couldn’t get a basket to drop. The Cougars shot 15-of-70 from the field (21.4 percent) while Reno converted 23-of-50 shots (46 percent) on the night.
“I’m obviously disappointed with the outcome and our performance,” Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said. “I’m disappointed that we weren’t more competitive. I thought we were well prepared and we executed some things, but we got killed on the boards.”
Both teams struggled to get their offense going early on as the matchup was knotted at 4-4 five minutes after the tip. After tying the game at four though, the Huskies dropped in eight more points to grab a 12-4 lead just before the end of the first quarter. A bucket at the buzzer by Cougar Lyndsey Anderson brought the score to 12-6, heading into the second.
An 11-4 run to start the second quarter vaulted Reno out to a 23-8 double-digit lead, capped off by a wide-open 3-pointer by Huskies guard C.C. Sobrio with 3:29 left until halftime. Trying to stay in the game, the Cougars closed out the half with a 6-2 run to cut the Reno lead to single digits at 25-16 at the intermission.
Coming out of the break, Spanish Springs stumbled, allowing the Huskies to run away and put the game on ice.
Outscoring the Cougars 10-4 over the first five minutes out of the half, including an almost three-minute span where Spanish Springs went scoreless, Reno grabbed a decisive 35-20 lead and never looked back.
The fourth quarter saw the two teams trade buckets but the closest the Cougars would get was 13 points.
Numerous times throughout the night Reno (16-3, 6-1) was able to score after multiple missed attempts, as rebound after rebound fell the Huskies way. The Cougars were out-rebounded 41-29.
“There was a lack of focus,” Eckles said. “They definitely have a size advantage inside, but we just didn’t rebound.We weren’t focused.”
Spanish Springs was led by Anderson and Hannah Woytek, who both had eight points.
Morgan McGwire was the game’s leading scorer, finishing with 17 points, while Sobrio chipped in 11 points on the night.
Next on the schedule, the Cougars (13-5 overall, 5-2 league) visit Damonte Ranch on Friday at 6 p.m.
“We need to get back to work,” Eckles said. “It’s only one game. It was an important one, but we have another important game ahead of us that we have to stay focused on.”