Spanish Springs did not score through the first four-plus minutes of the fourth quarter Tuesday night and managed only four fourth-quarter points total. The result wasn’t pretty for SSHS fans as the Cougars were saddled with a 56-38 High Desert League road loss at Reno.
The defeat means Spanish Springs no longer controls its own playoff fate. The Cougars could have clinched a playoff berth with a win Tuesday. Now the local club has a tough road to travel to even qualify for the postseason. Spanish Springs must upset Hug, which has already clinched a league title, in both schools’ regular season finale Friday and then still get some help.
“If you’re talking about the playoffs, the loss hurts a whole lot,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “We don’t control our own fate, but at the same time, we have a game Friday and we can’t worry about the playoffs. We have to worry about us. This could be our last game. I want to see us do the little things we need to do, regardless of playoff positioning.
“This could be our last game so it needs to be our best game. That needs to be our mindset. That’s what we’ll have to hang our hat on. Hopefully, then we’ll get a chance to come back and play some more.”
Spanish Springs trailed by 12 at halftime, 33-21, but the road team dominated play in the third period. After Reno scored the first bucket of the period, Spanish Springs reeled off a 13-2 run over a span of just under six minutes.
Brandon Delong made a driving layup for the Cougars with 56 seconds remaining on the third-quarter clock. That bucket saw Spanish Springs get to within three points, 37-34, as the two teams headed to the fourth quarter.
And that’s when the SSHS offense ran out of gas. Reno scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter, a spurt capped by two David Abitan free throws, that left the RHS crew on top 46-34 with 3:50 to go in the conference clash.
Delong drained two free throws after Reno was called for a technical foul with 3:01 left. The foul shots trimmed the Reno lead to 10, 48-38. However, Spanish Springs did not score again and Reno tacked on eight more points to account for the final 18-point margin.
“We were atrocious offensively and a lot of that is their defense but a lot of that is the way we played too,” Penney said. “We accepted the defense. We didn’t dictate anything. Offensively, we executed in the third quarter but not other than that. Our two starting post players, who have played pretty well recently, got two shots, combined. There is not a team that will be successful when that happens. We’re certainly much better when we work inside out.”
The game was close through the early minutes. A putback by Cougars post TJ McCauley deadlocked the score at 11 with 1:15 remaining in the initial period. Then, an 8-2 Reno run gave the hosts a 19-13 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
Spanish Springs scored six of the next eight points to trim the Huskies’ lead to a bucket, 21-19. Reno scored eight of the final 10 points before halftime and extended its advantage to 33-21 at the intermission.
Delong led Spanish Springs (13-11, 8-7 in Northern 4A) with 18 points but he accounted for nearly half of the Cougars’ offense. No other SSHS player had more than seven points and only six players on the roster found the scoring column.
“Defensively, we did a pretty good job contesting shots,” Reno coach Kyle Schellin said. “We had to rebound and I felt like we did a pretty good job limiting them to one shot. When you can do that, it makes it pretty tough on your opponent because they have to shoot a high percentage to beat you.
“I even thought we did a decent job on Delong. He got his points, but he’s a very good player and I still felt like we made him work for everything.”
Abitan had 15 points to lead Reno (12-13, 9-6) while Hart McGrath chipped in 12.
The Spanish Springs game against Hug is at HHS with tip-off slated for 7:30 p.m. Friday.