However, over the past two weeks, the SSHS hoopsters are beginning to look a lot more like the squad most believed they could be. Spanish Springs (9-8 overall) has come back after the holidays and reeled off three straight league wins to even its mark in conference clashes at 4-4, following a 62-52 win at Damonte Ranch Friday..
“Our kids have a different attitude,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “Our kids want to win and they’re doing the things we ask of them to win. That starts with defense and rebounding.
“We did a good job with those areas today. We talk about holding people to 54 or under, and when you do that, you give yourself a chance to win everyday. We’ve got kids stepping up, too. Our playing better is a combination of a lot of things but it needs to continue.”
After the opening minutes, Spanish Springs never trailed. The Cougars found themselves clinging to a 10-point edge, 54-44, following a Brandon Delong 3-pointer with 5:56 to go in the contest.
That’s when the game nearly got away from the visiting Cougars. Damonte Ranch responded with the next eight points and got to within two, 54-52, on a Michael Holmes free throw at the 3:34 mark of the fourth.
The two teams traded defensive stops for nearly two minutes and the game had a feeling like whichever club could score next would win. That proved to be Spanish Springs.
Brian Smith made 1 of 2 foul shots for the Cougars and they extended their lead to 55-52 with 1:45 showing on the game clock. The guests put the game away when Delong drained a pull-up 3-pointer in transition and then got a steal and a layup 14 seconds apart.
Delong’s key five points saw Spanish Springs jump on top 60-52 with under a minute to go. Cougars reserve post TJ McCauley tacked on a runner in the lane with 32 ticks left and Damonte (13-3) did not score in the final three-plus minutes of the game, accounting for the final 62-52 margin.
“That’s a great win on the road. Damonte’s a great team,” Penney said. “They kept coming and they got us out of being able to execute a bit, but we rebounded well and Brandon hit some huge shots.”
Delong dropped four 3-point bombs and finished with a game-high 28 points. Connor Naisbitt chipped in 10 points toward the Cougars’ winning cause.
“He had it going no doubt about that,” Penney said of Delong. “He’ll just continue to grow and get better, too. He maybe tried to attack a little too soon a couple times, but even then he didn’t let that affect him. He kept at it and played good defense. He got a couple huge steals.”
Jeff Turk posted 19 points for Damonte Ranch, while John Carlson and Holmes added 11 and 10 points respectively in defeat.
The two teams were knotted at 6-6 midway through the initial period, but Spanish Springs scored eight straight points and held a 14-6 advantage after the first period was finished.
A Turk bucket trimmed the Cougars’ lead to five, 17-12, but Spanish Springs ripped off a 13-1 burst and snared a 30-13 edge with a minute and a half left before the break. Damonte was able to hang around by scoring the last seven points of the second quarter.
Spanish Springs wound up taking a 30-20 lead into the locker room at the intermission.
The hosts kept chipping away and got back to within four, 41-37, on a Carlson layup with a minute remaining in the third.
Delong got the SSHS offense right back on track, finishing the third period with a 3-pointer and opening the fourth with another.
Spanish Springs gets a week off before returning to the hardwood, Friday at home against perennial Northern 4A power Hug at 7:30 p.m.