Spanish Springs blew an 18-point first-half lead and then watched Douglas force overtime and go up by four in the extra session. None of that mattered when Spanish Springs’ junior guard Connor Naisbitt threw up a 3-point shot from just short of half-court and watched it drop right through the rim, giving the Cougars a thrilling 68-67 upset road win.
“Basically what happened is last night at practice we ran the same drill and I made it,” Naisbitt said. “Then we did it here in a game situation. When I let it go, I knew it was going in. Before the game I was 1-for-1, so I had to make it and keep my percentage at 100.”
SSHS coach Kyle Penney confirmed Naisbitt’s story.
“Whats ironic is last night at practice we put them all on the baseline and said you get three dribbles and then have to chuck it,” Penney said.”We ended practice on that and none of them were close. Then we gave them one more chance and Connor made it, just like that. So when I called that timeout we had to go to Connor.”
The two teams went to overtime knotted at 61-61. Douglas took a 65-61 lead midway through the overtime, but could not build on it. Brandon Delong made a pull-up jumper for the Cougars with 1:45 remaining and then tied the game with two foul shots at the 1:01 mark.
Douglas (14-8 overall, 8-3 Northern 4A) got a steal with 14 seconds remaining and called timeout three seconds later. The Tigers wound up forging ahead 67-65 when the Cougars could not corral a rebound and DHS all-league center Hunter Myers got a putback that left 1.5 ticks on the game clock. SSHS coach Kyle Penney called timeout and drew up the set for Naisbitt to get off his game winner.
Spanish Springs got a balanced offensive effort. Four players finished in double figures for the Cougs. Delong concluded the contest with a team-high 16 points. Brian Smith had 14 and Kenny Meyer 13, while Austin Damoth chipped in 10.
“Brandon got other guys involved. He had six assists in the first half,” Penney said. “And he made some big shots down the stretch. All the kids deserve so much credit. Let’s play some more. I’m ready for another overtime, just for fun though. We want the win.
“This was really fun, on the road, a great environment against a good team. We kept our composure and hung around, just a great team win.”
Myers led all scorers with 23 points. Jake Tessmann contributed 14 points in the losing cause.
“We got the looks we wanted at the end,” Douglas coach Corey Thacker said. “We had good possessions. There’s not much we could have done differently. We got the shots we wanted and we converted them … It was a playoff atmosphere and that was good experience.”
Spanish Springs led 36-23 after it scored the first bucket of the second half, but that’s when Douglas began to chip away. The Tigers outscored their guests 19-12 in the third period and were down by just four, 46-42, after three.
Douglas took its first lead, 50-48, when Teffmann buried a 3-pointer with five minutes left in regulation. However, the Cougars had plenty of fight left. They fought back to go up 60-55 on a Delong jumper with just under a minute left in the fourth.
Unfortunately for Spanish Springs, Douglas was able to force the game into OT when Myers converted on a 3-point play and then stepped out to connect on a trey from the top of the key in a late span of 22 seconds.
Spanish Springs certainly got the best of Douglas in the first half. The Cougars took a 34-23 lead into halftime after Cougars sophomore Kenny Meyer heaved a desperation 3-pointer, falling out of bounds, that found nothing but the bottom of the net as the buzzer sounded with the expiration of the second period.
The answered prayer stopped a modest 10-1 Douglas spurt.
Before that Douglas burst, Spanish Springs had dominated the first half, taking a 30-15 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Cougars (9-10, 5-6) could not have gotten off to a better start. They scored the first nine points of the game. Douglas cut the guests’ lead to 11-7 with just over three minutes remaining in the initial quarter, but Spanish Springs responded with the next 12 points, a spurt capped by a Meyer trey from the corner and a floater in the lane that banked down.
The SSHS hoopsters took a 23-9 lead after the first eight minutes. Their biggest lead was a 30-13 score after a Jake Longero 3-point bomb at the 3:52 mark of the second period.
“We just can’t put ourselves in that position,” said Thacker, alluding to his team’s slow start. The Tigers have trailed after one quarter in games against six of the seven teams currently in playoff position. “We’re beating a dead horse at this point. It’s something we have to figure out. We have to come prepared to play with more intensity.
“Spanish Springs is 5-6 in league. I don’t know how that happened. They are much better than their record shows. They do the little things right. They have a lot of length and that gave us fits inside. They battled and took it to us in the first quarter especially.”
Spanish Springs returns to the hardwood Friday when it hosts McQueen at 7:30 p.m.