The Cougars got 21 points from T.J. McCauley as they erased a seven-point deficit early in the third quarter and came away with a 67-58 triumph.
Wooster lost to Spanish Springs in its season opener by 36 points a year ago, but this year’s meeting was much different.
The first quarter was played at a frenetic pace, but that didn’t lead to many points on the scoreboard. Neither team led by more than two points in the opening eight minutes as the Cougars owned an 11-9 edge after one quarter of play. That changed quickly in the second quarter.
Hunter Fralick made a free throw and McCauley followed with a bucket down low. A putback by Austin Damoth capped a 5-0 run and forged the Purple and Silver into a 16-9 lead with 6:33 remaining in the half. That seven-point cushion was the largest of the first half for the Cougs.
Midway through the second quarter, Wooster had a chance to regain the lead. However, the Colts missed 3 of 4 free throws on back-to-back trips down the floor, leaving them trailing 19-17 with 4:06 to play in the first half.
Wooster would find a way to grab a lead by halftime though. After a pair of free throws by McCauley extended the visitors’ edge to 21-17 with 3:49 on the clock, Pughsley knocked down his second 3-pointer of the quarter. Then JJ Harloff was fouled on a 3-pointer, and he sank two of his free throws, giving the home team a 22-21 advantage at the 2:23 mark of the second quarter.
It didn’t stop there for the Colts as Harloff banked home a trey and Pughsley hit a pull-up jumper, padding the cushion to a first-half high of six points for the WHS cagers, 27-21.
Spanish Springs hadn’t hit a shot from the floor for nearly four and a half minutes when McCauley ended the drought with seven seconds before the intermission, cutting the deficit to 27-23 as both teams headed back into the locker rooms.
“We get out of our offense too soon. We’ve got to work on understanding the difference between our transition offense. I don’t want to hold them back in transition, but we have to understand when the defense is already set up,” SSHS boys basketball coach Kyle Penney said. “Our number one concern is ball reversal. We need a ball reversal. I’m only asking for one. When we do that, we’ll be OK.”
Wooster wasn’t that efficient on offense in the first 16 minutes either. The Colts made one shot from inside 15 feet and settled for many rushed mid-range to long-range pullups. But it worked for them in the first half. It didn’t in the second half once Spanish Springs stopped turning over the ball as much and played better defensively on Pughsley.
“We missed some jobs on him, no doubt. I thought we did a good job on him honestly,” Penney said of the defense on Pughsley. “Hunter Fralick played a lot of minutes on him and did a good job. We didn’t do a good job as a team when he was around the perimeter and coming off ball screens until it was late in the game. That’s part of when we made a little bit of a run. We were late stepping out for help, and when we were on time, it was a different story.”
Wooster held off Spanish Springs as long as it could in the third period.
A 3-pointer to start the second half increased the gap to the largest margin of the game, 30-23.
That’s when the Cougars started chipping away.
A 5-0 spurt thanks to a basket in the paint by McCauley and a three-point play by Damoth closed the gap to 32-30.
The Cougars wouldn’t get closer than two points until Connor Naisbitt got a shooter’s roll on his 3-pointer, making it a 37-36 ballgame with 3:00 to go in the third quarter.
A pull-up off the dribble by Pughsley gave Wooster a 39-36 lead, but the Red and White wouldn’t score again the rest of the third quarter.
Spanish Springs tallied the final eight points of the third over a span of 1:45 to snatch a 44-39 lead heading into the last quarter. The run didn’t stop there.
The Cougars scored the first six points of the fourth quarter, and a pair of Naisbitt free throws concluded the 14-0 run. It also left Spanish Springs with its first double-digit advantage of the contest, 50-39, with 7:16 remaining in the game.
Wooster would get as close as seven the rest of the way. The last time was at 61-54 with two minutes to go.
Harloff joined Pughsley in double figures with 15 points. No other Colt had more than six.
Naisbitt finished with 10 points, while Damoth added eight.
Spanish Springs (1-1) is back at home Tuesday against North Valleys. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.