In the end, Spanish Springs outlasted Reed for a 36-33 home win in the key High Desert League boys prep basketball battle. The win pulls Spanish Springs (11-7, 6-2) within a game of league-leading Reed (14-4, 7-1) in the conference standings.
"You talk about two teams playing very good defense, that was it," Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. "We talked to the kids, if you defend and rebound on every possession, you can make up for an offensive performance that is not your best.
"You have to defend your home court. That's a must in this league. We talked in practice that we've got a (playoff) spot right now. The rest of the way, we want to defend our spot and see if we can gain a spot. That's what we're working for."
Reed tied the game at 33-33 with 1:57 remaining on the game clock after junior guard Jamel Ramos capped a 7-0 Raiders run with a 3-pointer and runner in traffic on consecutive possessions.
Unfortunately for fans of the Blue and Gold, their beloved Raiders could not get the lead back. After a timeout, Spanish Springs ran a set play that has been successful on multiple occasions this season and it worked again as Dupree Kness broke free through the lane after a curl cut and dropped in a go-ahead layup for a 35-33 Cougars lead with 1:20 left in the contest.
"They executed and we didn't," sixth-year Reed coach Dustin Hall said. "They ran a nice set, something we'd seen on film and I thought we'd prepared for, but they executed it. They got a great back screen and a great finish."
Spanish Springs got a defensive stop on Reed's next possession and the visitors were forced to foul. Cougars guard Jake Longero earned the trip to the free-throw line and he proceeded to knock down 1-of-2 foul shots with 36 seconds remaining, forging the SSHS crew on top 36-33.
Reed had two possessions in the final 30 seconds of the game, but one resulted in a turnover and the last, in the waning seconds of the hoop tilt, resulted in a long off-balance 3-point prayer by Ramos that clanged off the rim as time expired.
Spanish Springs came out of the halftime break clinging to a one-point edge, 24-23. The hosts ripped off seven straights in less than two minutes to push their lead to 31-23 after Kenny Meyer buried a trio of free throws after being fouled on a 3-point attempt near the top of the key. The eight-point gap was the widest margin of the night.
There wasn't much offense from that point on for the Cougars. Spanish Springs went on a nearly nine-minute scoring drought. Longero snapped the skid with a pull-up jumper at the 5:15 mark of the fourth period. That bucket put the Cougars ahead 33-26.
The good news for Spanish Springs was it gave up only three points during the scoreless stretch that lasted more than the equivalent of a full quarter. When all was said and done, Spanish Springs managed to win the game despite putting up just five points in the final 14 minutes of action.
Fortunately for Spanish Springs, unlike its offense, its defense was not missing in action. Reed was able to post just 10 points in the entire second half.
For the game, Spanish Springs struggled to a 10-of-36 shooting performance (28 percent). The Cougars gained a big advantage at the charity stripe where they made more free throws (12-19) than Reed attempted (4-11).
"That was part of the gameplan," Penney said of trying to get to the free-throw line. "We saw some things on film we thought we could attack. We wanted to go right at them. We saw some things we thought we could do off the dribble."
Meyer led all scorers, pouring in 20 points for the Cougars. He knocked down only 4-of-14 shots from the floor but drained 10-of-11 free throws to help his offensive output. No other Spanish Springs player finished with more than three points.
Ramos paced Reed with 15 points and Alonzo Vega added 11 to the losing cause, but the rest of the RHS roster combined for just seven points.
"When these two teams play, it's going to be a dog fight," Hall said. "They come in ready to battle. We gave ourselves a chance with our defense, but we were atrocious on offense, maybe the worst we've been offensively since I've been the coach.
"Right now we're asking one or two guys to do everything. I've got to do a better job of getting our other guys into positions where they can score and contribute. So I'll take the blame on that."
Reed grabbed the early momentum. The Raiders scored the last five points of the first quarter and ended up leading 9-4 after the first eight minutes. The Cougars did not record a field goal in the first period.
However, the Spanish Springs offense did get going in the second quarter, posting 20 points. Reed held an 18-13 lead after a 3-pointer by Ramos at the 5:11 mark of the second quarter. Spanish Springs responded with an 11-1 run keyed by back-to-back Meyer 3-pointers.
"That improved second quarter started with our defense," Penney said. "We got some turnovers. We made some threes. The difference was, in the first quarter we gave up six offensive rebounds and in the second we gave up one. We started rebounding better and that enabled us to get in transition. In a game like this, transition points were huge. Neither team was running its half-court offense and getting a bunch of points."
Spanish Springs took its 24-23 lead into the locker room at the intermission after Ramos connected on a trey as the clock expired on the first half.
Reed played without standout swingman Trae Wells -- a first team all HDL selection a year ago -- who is still recovering from an ankle injury he suffered last Friday in a Raiders win at Bishop Manogue. Hall said he did not expect the athletic, high-scoring guard-forward back for at least the next two weeks.
"He's probably out another three or four games," Hall said. "We'll have to find other guys to step up. We're practicing as if he's out another couple weeks. We still must find ways to get wins."
The arch rivals meet again in both schools' regular season finale, Feb. 14 at Reed. Next up for Reed is a Friday home game against Reno at 7 p.m. Also Friday, Spanish Springs hosts North Valleys at 7 p.m.