The Cougars created enough separation over the first six minutes of both the first and third quarters, outscoring Carson 26-5 throughout the combined span, to survive less-than-stellar production in the second and fourth quarters.
“In the end, I’m pleased we got the win even though it wasn’t our best game,” Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said. “We struggled to score. The first half of the first quarter and the first half of the third quarter won the game for us. Then, down the stretch, we were able to hit our free throws and take care of the basketball, so I have to be pleased with that.”
From the tip, the game started off well for the Cougs. Sophomore guard Hannah Woytek capped off an 8-0 run at the 1:39 mark of the first quarter when she dribbled behind her back to shake a defender and then knocked down a step-back 15-footer. The Senators scored the first points of the game with 1:20 left in the first and the quarter ended with Spanish Springs holding an 11-4 advantage.
The roles were reversed in the second quarter. After Woytek drained a three a mere 12 seconds into the quarter, Carson stormed back.
Going to the free-throw line for nine shots, the Senators converted on seven attempts to bolster a five-minute 11-1 burst that tied the contest at 15-15 with under three minutes until halftime. Following a pair of traded jumpers, Spanish Springs guard MorningRose Tobey hit a 3-pointer from the wing to put the Cougars up 20-19 heading into the intermission.
Tobey started the second half the same way she ended the first as she drilled a trey from the right wing to jumpstart a 7-2 Spanish Springs spurt that pushed its lead to 27-21 two minutes in. After a three from Carson senior guard Eliza Matley cut the deficit in half, the Cougars opened the game wide open with an 11-0 run that made the Purple and White lead 38-24 with 2:05 left to play in the third.
A three from Matley along with a free throw and a runner from junior forward Maddi Saarem pulled Carson back to within single-digits heading into the final quarter with the score 39-30.
The Senators would try to claw back in the fourth, going on a 10-4 run to open the quarter and cut the lead to 43-40, but with just 2:36 remaining the task proved too large.
Sending Carson to the charity stripe time and again, Spanish Springs kept the Senators in the game as the visitors hit 19-of-28 (68 percent) from the line, including seven turns to the foul line in the final quarter.
“We put them on the line way too much and they shot their free throws well, Eckles said. “I felt like we played well, we just need to be better defensively. We have to be better defensively. We ultimately bailed them out. We played pretty good defense moving our feet and then we stop moving our feet and we hack them. They made their trips to the line count and they shot their free throws really well. That was kind of disappointing. We wanted to play better in that aspect.
“We haven’t been fouling like that so it probably just needs a little bit of emphasis in practice about getting down and moving our feet a little bit better than we did tonight. It’s a win though and it’s a win that we needed. We might see that team again in the playoffs so we’ve at least established that we got this one. I like our girls’ maturity though. They weren’t pleased with themselves tonight. In the locker room they were upset with how they played. They know they can play better. I think that’s the sign of a winning team, when you win and you are able to recognize it wasn’t your best.”
Woytek led the Cougars with a team-high 13 points. Tobey also contributed, chipping in with 12 points on the evening. No one from the bench for the Purple and White scored, with the remaining 23 points coming from the three remaining starters. The Cougs finished the night shooting 17-of-49 (34.7 percent) from the field.
Carson (12-11, 9-4 in Northern 4A) was led by Matley and Saarem, who tallied 15 points and 10 points, respectively. Guard Savannah Smith also recorded eight points. The Senators shot 10-of-26 (38.5 percent) for the game.
Spanish Springs (17-6, 10-3) hosts North Valleys on Friday at 6:00 p.m.