After coming out in the first 16 minutes of the game with no energy and no legs on its shots, Reed stormed back with a frenzy of scoring in the second half. Down 33-17 at halftime, behind a five-point performance in the second quarter, the Raiders left Spanish Springs looking like a dazed fighter after taking a haymaker to the jaw, knocking the Cougars out with 58 points in the final half.
“Wow,” Reed coach Dustin Hall said. “The worst first half we’ve played and the best second half. It showed a lot of toughness from our kids. A lot of character. I think we were down about 20 with a minute left in the first half and we had no energy, no momentum, and no passion. We had a good halftime talk and they came out and took it upon themselves to just compete. They showed a lot of heart and a lot of resiliency.”
For Spanish Springs, the crushing loss was tough to swallow.
“It’s a tough loss,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “We dominated the first half and they extremely dominated the second half, based on pressure, and we couldn’t handle the pressure bottom line. They came out and forced turnovers on the first two possessions out of the half and we never got it fixed. We never regrouped. We didn’t do our jobs and we got caught in the moment. We didn’t listen and we didn’t learn tonight and we end up with a loss because of it.”
The game started out in favor of the Cougars when sophomore guard Jake Longero buried a three from the corner 20 seconds in. The two teams then battled to an 8-8 tie with 4:46 to play in the first before Reed grabbed a 12-11 advantage at 2:58. Reed would then go scoreless over the final two minutes of the quarter as Spanish Springs ended the first on a 9-0 spurt for a 20-12 lead.
The first bucket of the second quarter went to the Reed, but a 13-0 run by the Cougars that took up almost the entirety of the quarter pushed the Spanish Springs advantage to 33-14 with 1:18 till halftime. Raider Deyraun Stamps hit a free throw and converted a layup before the half to leave the score at 33-17.
That’s when the game unraveled for the Cougars and fell in to the waiting hands of the opportunistic Raiders.
With the Raiders coming out in a full-court press, Spanish Springs was unable to get out of its half of the court. Two quick steals, a layup and 3-pointer later by Raiders guard A.J. Silva ignited the comeback.
At the 5:29 mark of the third quarter and the Cougars still holding a double-digit lead at 38-24, Reed began to go on its tear.
A 12-2 run in which the Raiders forced a handful of turnovers and hit 7-of-8 from the free-throw line made the game a single-digit affair with the Cougars clinging to a 40-36 lead with 3:11 left in the third. A layup by Reed guard Devin Gray at the buzzer brought Raiders to within one, 46-45.
“Basically we just turned the pressure up,” Hall said. “The energy defensively was down in the first half and that second half was more indicative of how we want to play. Spanish Springs did a good job in the first half of really slowing us down and setting the tempo at their pace, but the second half our kids just came out and won the game. Our pressure caused chaos and that’s what we want. We like to turn the game ugly. First half, we didn’t do it, second half the kids had energy and they executed.”
With momentum fully in favor of the Raiders and the once 16-point Cougar lead from halftime completely erased, Reed was unstoppable in the final quarter.
For the first time since just over two minutes in the opening quarter, Reed retook the lead on a trey from senior guard Dylan McKenzie and never looked back. The triple jumpstarted a 12-0 Raiders run, swinging the game in favor of Reed and leaving the scoreboard reading 57-46. The Cougars never threatened the Raiders’ lead as Reed coasted to the victory.
“Reed is outstanding,” Penney said. “Give them credit. They came out and they said ‘hey, we’re a bunch of seniors and we’re not going to lose this game, and if we’re going to lose it, then we’re going to lose it because you’re going to have to do something about it.’ Pat them on the back. They gave us a tail-whooping.”
In the eyes of Hall, the Raiders dramatic win says a lot about his team.
“It shows the toughness and the character in the locker room, the leadership to not quit,” Hall said. “Last year, we would have lost by 25 points or 30 and just said ‘okay, let’s go play the next one,’ but at halftime it was kids stepping up and saying let’s go out and compete. Win or lose, let’s compete and show them how we play. They did that in the second half. It’s a credit to our kids.”
For the Cougars, Penney said they have to let go of the loss and move on.
“We have to continue to get better,” Penney said. “Our guards are young and inexperienced in terms of court time. We just have to keep playing. Anything can happen. We’re not out of the playoffs if we’re talking about playoffs, which we’re not. We have a game on Tuesday that we have to play, so we’re going to come in on Monday and we’re going to do what we do. We lost the basketball game, but Monday we have practice. We’re going to practice and move forward and prepare for Tuesday.”
The Raiders effort was led by McKenzie, who finished the night with a game-high 27 points. Silva also hit double figures, chipping in 19. Gray added nine points.
Longero and senior guard Brandon Delong led the Cougars in scoring, both tallying 16 points each.
Reed (8-5, 7-2 in Northern 4A) visits Reno Monday at 7:30 p.m. while Spanish Springs (9-10, 4-6) travels to Douglas Tuesday night with tip-off set for 7:30 p.m.