The Cougars coach watched his club collapse in the fourth quarter and get saddled with an emotional 59-46 loss at home to High Desert League foe McQueen.
"We had nine turnovers in the second half and eight of them were in the fourth quarter. That's the difference right there," Penney said. "It comes down to us, more than anything McQueen did. We turned the ball over. We threw it right into their hands.
"You could tell McQueen picked up its defensive pressure in the fourth quarter, but we have to handle that. We didn't take care of it."
Penney didn't have much positive to say, and for good reason. He watched his squad rally from a double-digit first-half deficit to take a five-point lead early in the fourth quarter. Then the SSHS cagers went scoreless for almost seven minutes, and in the end, managed just four fourth-quarter points.
"We were in desperation mode," McQueen coach John Franklin said, alluding to his team's fourth-quarter performance. "We needed to step back, get our feet underneath us and get our mind right. If we didn't do it, our hopes and dreams were all over. Our kids new that."
A loss Tuesday at Spanish Springs would have eliminated McQueen (13-13, 7-8) from postseason contention.
McQueen led by as many as 14 in the first half and took a 32-22 lead into the locker room at the break. However, Spanish Springs turned the tide, dominating play in the third period. The Cougars outscored their guests 20-5 in the key eight-minute stretch.
The SSHS hoopsters scored the first nine points of the third to get within one, 35-34. McQueen briefly stopped the bleeding, scoring five of the next nine points to cling to a 37-35 lead. Spanish Springs responded by closing out the quarter with a 7-0 run and forging ahead 42-37.
"In the third quarter, we defended and executed offense," Penney said. "We got some transition offense from our defense. We executed. We got the ball to the right people in the right spots so they could score."
In the first 40 seconds of the fourth period, McQueen got a layup from DaeShawn Patterson and Spanish Springs answered with a fade-away jumper in the lane by TJ McCauley; so the scoreboard showed the Cougars with a 44-39 lead.
Over the next seven minutes, just about anything that could go wrong for Spanish Springs, did. McQueen scored 20 straight points, a run keyed by Patterson, who had totaled eight points in the spurt.
Lancers shooting guard Kody Eckert concluded the outburst with two free throws with 50.9 ticks remaining in the conference clash. That made the score 59-44.
Cougars reserve Hunter Pinto connected on a short jumper in the paint with 28 seconds left, ending the Cougars' scoring drought, but the damage had been done.
Taylor Mathews led McQueen with 17 points, while Patterson and Eckert added 15 and 13 points respectively.
McCauley and Kenny Meyer posted 15 and 12 points to lead Spanish Springs.
The game was all McQueen early. Spanish Springs snatched a quick 5-2 lead three minutes in but McQueen strung together a 19-2 spurt and wound up take a 21-10 lead into the second quarter.
The visitors led by 14, 30-16, after a Mathews trey, but the hosts got a modest 6-2 run and trailed at the break by the aforementioned 10-point gap. Mathews had five treys and all 17 of his points before halftime to pace McQueen's offense early.
"Absolutely, his shooting caught us by surprise," Penney said. "We didn't expect him to shoot it like that. But he shot the ball the way he expected, the way he shoots it everyday in practice. He shot it with confidence."
Spanish Springs is now 14-10 overall and 8-7 in league play. The Cougars have just their regular season finale left, a home game Friday at 7 p.m. against arch rival Reed. The Sparks-area school clinched a playoff berth Tuesday when Reno lost to Hug and it could still earn a No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 playoff seed, depending on the results of Friday's Division I North High Desert League games.