“Our kids had some competitive fire tonight. They were motivated,” Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said. “We preach that everything for us starts with our defense. We played pretty well most of the night and that’s because we played well defensively most of the night.”
Spanish Springs (4-0) scored in transition three seconds into the game after winning the opening tip. That was a bad omen for the visiting Panthers. The Cougars’ full-court pressure forced nine turnovers in the first three minutes of play and the hosts raced out to a quick 8-0 edge.
North Valleys (2-2) stopped the hemorrhaging for about two minutes, trimming the Spanish Springs lead to 10-6, but it quickly got ugly again as the Cougars ripped off a 12-0 run. Hannah Woytek made a runner in traffic to cap the spurt. That came at the 6:42 mark of the second quarter and was the first bucket either team scored in the period.
Unfortunately for Spanish Springs, it fell flat into halftime and was outscored 10-6 into the intermission. After building a 14-point lead nine-plus minutes into the game, the Cougars led by only 12 at the break, 28-16.
A spirited halftime talk from Eckles saw Spanish Springs re-inspired for the second half. North Valleys did score six of the first 10 points of the second half. A layup by Taylor Docktor made it 32-22, but that was as good as it got for North Valleys.
The Cougars responded with an 8-2 run, a burst concluded with a Lyndsey Anderson layup. That pushed the Spanish Springs lead back to 16, 40-24.
Things went from bad to worse for North Valleys. Stephanie Lyons made a runner in the lane for the guests midway through the third period. The Panthers did not score again, a drought that lasted nearly 12 minutes to the final buzzer.
Spanish Springs scored the final 24 points of the game.
“I had to get on them a bit at halftime. We had a letdown in the second quarter and that’s not going to get it done in big games against the best teams in our league,” Eckles said. “I liked the way our kids responded, especially our leaders. They regained their intensity and it showed in the way we pulled away.”
The Cougars’ defensive pressure in full and half-court sets was relentless. Spanish Springs forced a school-record 44 turnovers and saw four players hit for double digits in the scoring column.
SSHS senior guard Riley Holladay finished with a game-high 17 points, 15 of which came in the second half. She also had eight rebounds, five steals and three assists. Anderson chipped in 11 points and grabbed seven boards. Laneesha Terrance finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Cougars junior Hannah Woytek, who transferred from North Valleys prior to last season, added 12 points, four assists and five steals to the winning cause.
“That’s the kind of balance we need if we want to be successful,” Eckles said. “We’re a talented basketball team, not a one-trick pony. I expect that kind of balance and we need it going forward.”
No North Valleys players had more than six points.
Spanish Springs has a busy next few days. The Cougars will host their annual Winter Challenge Thursday, Friday and Saturday and play four games in the three-day span, including two on Saturday. The local school tips off the event Thursday at 6 p.m. against Atwater, Calif.
“We’ll get a lot of basketball in this weekend,” Eckles said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to see a lot of different situations and to learn from them. We’ve still got a long way to go, but I like that we’re playing hard in games and working hard in practice.”