Spanish Springs dominated play in the first half, building a 19-point lead at one point. Damonte Ranch battled all the way back and took a four-point lead with a minute remaining in the conference clash. Then the DRHS club watched Spanish Springs' all-league point guard Hannah Woytek take over in the final 30 seconds and all but single-handedly steal the win for the Cougars while breaking the host Mustangs hearts in the process.
"Spanish Springs ran its offense really, really well," Damonte Ranch coach Ed Shepard said. "They run flex and have a kink in it where they do a back screen. It worked on us. They got four or five layins off their offense right away. We didn't make any adjustments in the first half and they played really well. They were smart and patient. Coach (Art) Cardenas had them prepared.
"You've just got to give it to Spanish Springs. Their girls came out in the first quarter and ran their offense. It's not like they were shooting lights out. They just ran their stuff and that's exactly what that offense is designed to do. My hat's off to their coaches and girls."
Damonte Ranch (9-5, 4-3) took a 49-45 lead after a putback by sophomore Morgan Waller with 1:23 left on the game clock.
That's as good as it got for the Mustangs. Woytek was fouled on a 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining. She calmly stepped to the charity stripe for the Cougars and knocked down all three foul shots, hitting nothing but cord on all three.
Spanish Springs forced Damonte Ranch into a quick shot on the Mustangs' ensuing trip downcourt. Defensive replacement, cat-quick guard Kara Buscay, came out with the rebound and SSHS coach Art Cardenas called timeout.
Cardenas drew up a play to get Woytek a jumper from the top of the key but she could not shake her Damonte defender. Instead she drove left and got up a scoop shot in traffic. It kissed off the glass and through the twine with four seconds remaining to complete the Spanish Springs comeback.
"It was a set play and I was supposed to shoot it (coming around at the top of the key), but my defender was right there, so I drove," Woytek said. "Nothing was going through my head really. I was just playing basketball. I didn't see a lane to the hoop but I just knew I had to go for it."
Shepard was admittedly frustrated to see his team melt down in crunchtime.
"It wasn't that last shot that beat us so much as it was the defensive play prior to that where they had to have a three," Damonte Ranch coach Ed Shepard said. "I told our girls they're going to rush for it and do not foul them in the act of shooting. We did just the opposite.
"Then we were still up by one and in the double bonus situation where they had to foul us ... We did not have to shoot, but we come down the floor, take a shot and miss it. At that point, they don't need a three even. We talked in the timeout that we cannot let them drive on us and we let her (Woytek) go around us with the drive. It was a desperation shot. It went up and in."
The margin at halftime was 13, as Spanish Springs led 34-21. The lead evaporated. Damonte Ranch outscored its guests 14-5 in the third period to cut Spanish Springs' lead to 39-35.
The Mustangs were not done. A 3-pointer by Kyra Bruesewitz with 3:04 to go in the final period saw Damonte Ranch take its first lead, 47-45. Shortly thereafter Waller got her putback, setting the stage for Woytek's late-game heroics.
Woytek finished with 12 points, including the game-winning bucket. Adriana Pennington had 19 points, 15 in the first half, for Spanish Springs to lead all scorers. Mariah Vargas chipped in 13 points to the winning cause.
"In the North Valleys game, I didn't play well," Pennington said, alluding to her ineffectiveness in a close league game. "I knew tonight I had to finish. Most of it was being in the right spot against their press. I knew I had to get down the floor as fast as I could."
Cardenas liked the offensive balance, seeing three of his starters post double digits in the scoring column.
"Addy (Pennington) had a great game," the Cougars' coach said. "In the first half she was really big and in the second half they packed it in a little bit and she didn't get as many opportunities. And then Hannah did a great job of keeping us composed. She stepped up to the line for those three free throws and had no problem. I don't think any of them even hit the rim. When it came down to the last shot, I was going to her. I didn't really see a driving lane, but she found a way to get it there. She got the shot up and it went in for us."
Bruesewitz posted 17 points in defeat for Damonte Ranch, which also got 12 points from Waller and 11 from Taylor Nuttall.
The two teams were knotted 3-3 two and a half minutes into the game but Spanish Springs ripped off 12 straight points, a spurt capped by a Vargas layup. Spanish Springs wound up taking a 23-7 lead by the end of the first quarter.
The visiting Cougars outscored Damonte 9-4 through the first five-plus minutes of the second quarter, extending their edge to 32-13 following a Woytek layup at the 2:54 mark of the period.
The 19-point advantage didn't hold up. Damonte Ranch outscored Spanish Springs 8-2 into halftime -- with six of those coming in the final minute of the second quarter -- and trimmed the Cougars' lead to 34-21 at the intermission.
Next, Spanish Springs (12-3, 4-3) hosts state power Reed Tuesday at 5:15 p.m.