“We didn’t play real well overall,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “It was kind of typical long road trip type of stuff. It’s tough playing on a neutral court, like we did Friday and Saturday, and no one is in the gym. There’s no energy. I wish we would’ve been able to generate more energy. We didn’t have (starting post) TJ McCauley so some other kids got valuable minutes that we’ll need in the future.”
Spanish Springs opened the Elko tournament Thursday and fell to the host Indians 67-52.
The SSHS crew struggled defensively to slow down Elko. The visiting Cougars allowed five different Elko players to hit for double digits in the scoring column and not even one of those was Elko's top returning scorer, sophomore Nathan Klekas. Tim Meo led Elko with 20 points.
Conversely, Cougars guard Kenny Meyer was the lone Spanish Springs player to finish in double figures scoring. He put up 14 in the losing effort.
After Elko jumped ahead 7-2 to open the tourney tilt, Spanish Springs ripped off a 15-3 outburst and led 17-10 after the first quarter, but it was downhill from there. Elko outscored Spanish Springs by a combined score of 33-15 in the second and third quarters to key its victory.
The Cougars led 22-21 after senior Zach Shaw buried a trey late in the second quarter. It was the local school's last lead of the night. Elko pulled ahead 28-25 by halftime and pulled away from there.
“We were stagnant,” Penney said. “We didn’t have good movement. We were not all on the same page. We had some costly turnovers. We were waiting for somebody to do something and not doing it together. At the same time, we were also in serious foul trouble. We couldn’t get into any rhythm.”
Elko had a stellar tournament. Not only did the Indians bounce Spanish Springs but they also knocked off Preston, Idaho and northern Nevada Division I preseason favorite Douglas.
The Cougars bounced back in fine fashion, rolling over Spring Creek 51-32 during Friday's second day tournament action. The contest was tight at halftime as the Cougars led by just four, 20-16. Spring Creek could not hang around after the break. The Cougars outscored the Spartans 23-4 in the third period and were never threatened down the stretch.
Meyer again scored 14 points to pace the Spanish Springs offense. Garrett Nauman added 11 to the winning cause.
Spanish Springs was able to capture the win despite its 27 turnovers.
“We have to cut those down,” Penney said. “A lot of that is a lack of focus, teenage kids on the road.”
The Spanish Springs offense was much more efficient in its final tournament game. The Cougars ran away with a 70-56 win over West High school of Salt Lake City.
Meyer and Austin Damoth had big games for the Cougars pouring in 26 and 20 points respectively. The duo combined to make 16 of 24 shots from the floor.
The two teams battled through three tough quarters as Spanish Springs was clinging to a 54-54 advantage heading into the final period of play. The Cougars outscored their Utah foes 16-6 in the final eight minutes to pick up the double-digit victory.
Spanish Springs also forced 26 West turnovers to help its cause. Additionally, the Cougars limited West to just a 19-of-68 (28 percent) shooting performance.
“In our game against West out of Salt Lake, they press everywhere every second,” Penney said. “They sub five guys in every minute and the speed of the game is outrageously fast. So we got to play against that and it was good for us. We didn’t execute any sets. The kids were just playing basketball. Learning to handle pressure and at that fast pace, we’ll see that in league. In hindsight, that was a good situation for us.”
Spanish Springs returns to the hardwood Tuesday when it tips off against High Desert League rival Reno. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at RHS.
“We’re in a good spot,” Penney said. “We’ve got a lot of things we must get better at. It’s on the kids at this point. They’ve got to make changes to do the team concept things. Defensively, we’re missing some rotations and missing assignments. We’ve basically taken care of business so far. Our one league loss is to Douglas and you’d like to think Douglas is going to win a lot of games. This one against Reno becomes a big game.”