The Cougars picked up a key 54-52 home win over Reno Saturday afternoon to stay just a game back of league-leading Reed. Spanish Springs (10-6) improved to 4-1 in conference clashes following a weekend sweep of High Desert League foes Hug and Reno. The Cougars' only league loss came on Opening Night of the season (Dec. 4) at Douglas, 61-51.
Spanish Springs had to hang on for its basketball life to survive for a win against Reno Saturday. The Cougars led by 10, 42-32, after senior guard Jake Longero got a tough layup in traffic to fall at the 2:34 mark of the third period.
The 10-point advantage was the largest either team enjoyed. Following Longero's circus scoop shot, Reno began chipping away at the Cougars' lead. Jacob Rolling scored the last five points of the third period, including a half-court prayer as the buzzer sounded to conclude the quarter. That left Spanish Springs clinging to a 42-37 lead headed to the final quarter.
Reno (9-6, 4-2) scored seven of the first 10 points of the fourth period. When Rolling made 1-of-2 free throws at the 4:17 mark of the fourth, capping the run, Reno had pulled to within one point, 45-44.
"We were trying to keep the lead instead of playing to attack," Cougars coach Kyle Penney said of Reno's ability to fight back into contention. "That's a fine line. We got up 10 and I was talking about being patient. So the question becomes what shots do you take and when do you attack. So that's partly on me."
However, the Huskies never could overtake the Cougars.
Longero converted a 3-point play with 2:33 left on the game clock and Spanish Springs had forged ahead 50-46. Still, Reno kept clawing its way back. A driving layup by Rolling saw Reno get to within a point, 53-52.
With 4.4 seconds remaining, Longero -- who had just made two free throws 20 seconds earlier -- canned 1-of-2 foul shots for the 54-52 SSHS lead.
"Jake hit some big free throws," Penney said. "He didn't really have his shot going from the perimeter so to step up and make those free throws under pressure, that says a lot about the kind of competitor he is."
Reno coach Matt Ochs called timeout and drew up a last-gasp play for a potential tying or winning shot. Huskies guard Kyle Mahaffey got off an open look at a 3-point shot from just beyond the arc on the wing. His flat shot rimmed off, preserving the two-point triumph for the hosts.
"We spent a lot of energy to get back in it," Ochs said. "We had a chance to win, but the damage had already been done. If we wanted a better outcome, we can look at the third quarter. If we were better there, then maybe it's a different game in the end.
"Their pressure in the third quarter really disrupted what we were trying to do. We didn't handle it well at all. Spanish Springs played hard and they deserved to win."
Spanish Springs got control of the game with its stellar third quarter. The Cougars came out of halftime trailing 26-24. The tide turned quickly. In less than 90 seconds, Spanish Springs had a 32-26 edge, thanks to a Dupree Kness layup, a 3-point play by Kenny Meyer and a 3-pointer by Meyer.
Spanish Springs wound up reeling off a 14-2 outburst through the initial three minutes of the third quarter. A Kness runner at the 5:03 mark of the third gave Spanish Springs its first 10-point advantage, 38-28.
"That stretch was huge," Penney said. "That's the difference in the game. We talked at halftime that we thought our pressure had affected them and that we were going to make some adjustments. The third quarter was big for us and then we kind of had to weather the storm at the end to get the win."
Reno had the early momentum. After Spanish Springs scored the first four points of the game, Reno answered with the next eight. The Huskies held a 15-9 lead by the end of the first quarter. A Mahaffey runner opened the scoring on the second quarter and saw Reno go up 17-9. That eight-point gap was the biggest lead Reno had Saturday.
Spanish Springs proceeded to post the next seven points, briefly taking the lead, 22-21 -- after a Hunter Fralick layup with 1:45 remaining before the intermission. Reno wound up scoring five of the next seven points to account for its 26-24 advantage at halftime.
Rolling buried a trio of treys and finished with a game-high 22 points but he was the lone Huskies player in double figures.
Meyer knocked down three treys as well and racked up 19 points to lead the Cougars' offensive arsenal. He got some more offensive contributions from his teammates too. Longero threw in 15 and Kness added 13 to the Sparks school's winning cause.
Spanish Springs returns to the hardwood Tuesday when it hosts McQueen at 7 p.m.