The result: A 68-36 dismantling of the Sierra League champs (18-8) and the first state berth in Spanish Springs (18-10) program history as well as a spot in Saturday’s North title game against Reno.
After the teams shook hands, Spanish Springs’ largest student section of the year stormed the court to celebrate with their squad.
“Our seniors really deserve it. They really do..,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “Thirteen-of-16, when does that ever happen? We talk about it all the time, you got to be playing great basketball at the right time of the year and that’s an example of pretty good basketball.”
The performance was arguably Spanish Springs’ best of the season, in its biggest game in program history. Ten Cougars got onto the stat sheet led by 18 from senior point guard Kenny Meyer who also handed out seven assists.
Jake Longero averaged 7.5 points a contest before unloading 14 points in the win, connecting on all four 3-point shots he took.
“I don’t know. I was just feeling good. I don’t know,” Longero said. “Everything was rolling for us tonight.”
Hunter Fralick came into the game averaging 5.5 points a game and scored 11 points – hitting both his shots from deep. Dupree Kness (nine points, nine rebounds) was one point and one board shy of a double-double.
“We need to be doing that,” Penney said of his group’s well-balanced offensive attack. “If you are going to win a championship of any sort, everybody has to contribute and tonight was that. We moved the ball and guys were ready and confident. That’s what it is about.”
Galena coach Brian Voyles struggled to find words to describe the night Spanish Springs put together.
“They had a phenomenal shooting night,” Voyles said. “I didn’t prepare them well enough to go against that. They did a great job.
“We had some of the right guys taking the shots by percentages but it didn’t work out.”
Scoring 36 points in the loss, Galena was held 22 points below its season average. Josiah Wood led the Grizz with nine points but 6-6 junior big man, Zack Lessinger, was held to four points – all in the first quarter. Lessinger (averaging 16.2 points per game) is arguably the best post player in the North.
“We just said in the locker room, defense is going to win every time because offensively the shots may not go,” Penney said. “Defense will win every time and we try to hang our hat on that. We’re about having the right mental attitude. We’re about working extremely hard and playing defense. If we can do that, we feel everything else will fall into place.”
In the Cougars’ and Grizzlies’ lone regular season meeting, Galena claimed a 55-45 win, Jan. 28, on its home floor.
Meyer also scored 18 points in the loss but on 5-of-14 shooting from the floor. He was 6-of-12 Friday.
“We tried to go matchup zone with Kenny and they did a good job going from the elbow to the short corner so that wasn’t going to work,” Voyles said. “Man didn’t work. If they could’ve turned the lights out that would’ve helped.
Meyer hit the first 3 of the game 1:05 into the semifinal, followed by three balls from Fralick and Marcus Loadholt, to key an 11-4 opening run in the first 3:37. Galena responded with a 6-0 run to draw within 11-10 before the Cougs took a 16-12 advantage into the second quarter.
On the strength of five three pointers, Spanish Springs outscored Galena 20-7 in the second quarter.
Leading 43-23 with 2:50 left in the third period, Meyer walked over to teammates subbing in and said “let’s finish this.” He took matters into his own hands and drilled a 3, seconds later. Longero hit his final triple of the night 40 seconds later to put the Cougars in front 49-23 with 2:02 left in the third quarter and the party was on.
Meyer and Longero both drew bear hugs from Penney after subbing out, for good, in the fourth quarter.
“It’s frustrating but I had the opportunity to coach a great group of young men,” Voyles said. “Losing 11 seniors last year we were supposed to be the doormat of the league. The character they had to get 13 (league) wins and a divisional title is what I’m looking (at). We could have added to that but this game didn’t take anything away.”
The Cougars now shift their attention to Saturday’s North title game against Reno, on its home floor. Both teams will play in the next week’s state tournament, at Lawlor Events Center, regardless of the outcome.
Reno eliminated Reed in Friday’s first semifinal, 67-62, to advance to Saturday’s title game. The Cougars and Huskies split their regular-season series, both winning on their home floors.
“It’s momentum. I told the kids make sure you don’t do anything different,” Penney said. “Make sure you get some sleep and get some fluids in you and you know we’ll me tomorrow and we’ll talk about what needs to be done.
Tip is at 6 p.m.