The Cougars picked up their fifth league win in their last seven outings, pulling out a 53-44 High Desert League triumph at home over McQueen.
McQueen beat Spanish Springs at MHS in mid-December, but the Cougars (11-10 overall) earned a much-needed split of the season series thanks to Friday’s victory and they now sit even in league at 6-6.
The weekend affair was knotted at 43-43 with 2:10 to go after McQueen’s Bryce Harnack made good on one of two foul shots. Apparently, that’s when McQueen ran out of gas.
Spanish Springs scored the next six points and owned crunchtime, outscoring McQueen 10-1 in the final two minutes.
“We forced some tough shots defensively, rebounded the ball and made some big free throws. That’s what we needed to do,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said of his team’s late-game momentum swing.
After the Harnack free throw, Spanish Springs got baseline jumpers from Jake Longero and Brandon Delong. Connor Naisbitt then buried two free throws and the Cougars had a 49-43 lead with a minute left.
The visiting Lancers got a free throw from Kendall Dewees with 46 seconds showing on the game clock. That made the score 49-44, but McQueen could get no closer as it failed to score the rest of the way. Delong and Naisbitt proceeded to each bury two more free throws in the last 38 seconds to account for the final nine-point margin.
“What happened was, in the last two minutes, they were tougher,” McQueen coach John Franklin said. “It’s that simple. They worked harder. They wanted the win and we didn’t.
“The two teams got after it defensively. They did and we did. They shut us down and we shut them down. But at the end of the game, they got it done.”
The hosts got off to a solid start, taking a modest 11-6 lead after the first eight minutes. Unfortunately for Spanish Springs, McQueen found some offense in the second period and outscored the Cougars 19-12. That left the Lancers clinging to a 25-23 lead at the break.
The Cougars defense in the third period, looked much more like it did in the first. McQueen managed only eight points in the third quarter. Meanwhile Spanish Springs put up 14.
Spanish Springs outscored McQueen 14-6 through the first seven minutes of the third, giving up only two-pointers to the Lancers during that stretch. The SSHS hoopsters had a 37-33 lead after three.
“We took nine threes in the first half,” Penney said. “But we talked that we had the size advantage and we had to get the ball inside. When we got some of those better shots, it makes the perimeter shots easier. We started attacking the rim, which is what we had to do.”
McQueen got a deep 3-pointer from Kody Eckert and a Dewees jumper from the free-throw line to start the fourth. That gave the Lancers a 38-37 lead with 4:46 remaining in the game.
The Lancers captured a 42-40 lead on a layup by Sebastian Feyersinger that left 3:35, but Spanish Springs answered on its next trip down the floor with a 3-point bomb by Delong to go back ahead 43-42. The Cougars did not trail again.
Delong led all scorers with 19 points. Austin Damoth added 12 for the Cougars.
Dewees had a team-high 14 for McQueen. Kyle Eckert and Kody Eckert had 11 and 10 for the Lancers. One issue for McQueen (12-9, 6-6) was the rest of its roster managed only nine points.
Spanish Springs plays again Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at home against Carson.