The Cougars, who have struggled to score at times throughout the winter campaign, saw pivotal scoring droughts catch up to them Friday in a 66-53 loss at McQueen in boys prep basketball action.
The loss, coupled with Hug’s win at Elko, eliminates Spanish Springs from postseason contention. The win clinches the High Desert League’s No. 3 seed for McQueen and means the Lancers will travel to face Sierra League No. 2 seed Douglas Tuesday at 7 p.m.
On Friday, Spanish Springs trailed 46-40 after three periods. McQueen, which lost in overtime at Spanish Springs three weeks ago, took control in the final period.
The host Lancers outscored Spanish Springs 10-2 through the first four minutes of the fourth quarter. McQueen’s Tito Harnack capped the outburst with a 3-point play. That put McQueen ahead 56-42 with 3:59 showing on the game clock. McQueen was never seriously threatened after that.
“I thought we got back to having a little bit of fun and not playing under so much pressure,” McQueen coach John Franklin said. “Tonight, we stayed in our lanes and really let the game come to us, instead of forcing it.”
Despite the late deficit, Spanish Springs did not roll over and play dead. A Ryan Swanson layup with 1:31 remaining in the game pulled the SSHS cagers within eight, 59-51. That’s as good as it got for the visiting Cougars.
The Lancers scored the next six points, all at the free-throw line, over the next minute to put the game away.
The charity stripe was a huge key for McQueen. The Lancers canned 24 of 39 attempts from the foul line while Spanish Springs was won only 10-of-13.
“McQueen shot the heck out of the ball, but we kept battling. We didn’t make some plays down the stretch and we got in some foul trouble,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “I think our kids really competed to their ability. We didn’t hit some shots, but that’s all I can ask for.”
McQueen got off to a hot start, jumping ahead 9-2 less than three minutes into the conference clash. However, the Lancers could not run away and hide. Spanish Springs senior Thomas Perkins threw in a 3-point prayer from just across mid-court as the buzzer sounded on the first quarter. The long-range bomb left Spanish Springs down 16-13.
In the second quarter, McQueen led 25-20 after two free throws by Rollins Stallworth with 4:07 left before halftime. Spanish Springs responded with six straight points, the last two on two Bryan Wilson free throws. That left Spanish Springs with a 26-25 edge at the 2:22 mark of the second quarter. It was the Cougars’ only lead all night, other than 2-0.
McQueen wound up taking a 30-28 edge into the locker room at the intermission.
“They say that teams take on the personality of their coach,” Franklin said. “Every time I’ve ever seen a Kyle Penney-coached team they always play hard. Spanish Springs definitely does. I knew they’d come back.”
The Lancers held a 36-35 lead after Spanish Springs senior Kyle Raymond got a putback with 4:25 to go in the third period. McQueen proceeded to go on a 10-3 outburst to keep the momentum.
While Spanish Springs had key stretches where it could not score, McQueen did not. In fact, the Lancers got four players into double digits in the scoring column. Stallworth finished with a team-high 16 points. Harnack and Kyle May each chipped in 14 points while CJ Grigg contributed 12.
Bryan Wilson racked up 16 points for the Cougars, but was the lone Spanish Springs player to finish in double figures.
The Cougars will finish their season today at home with a game against cross-town rival Reed at 5 p.m.
“We’ll come to play tomorrow and whatever happens, happens. We want to send our seniors out the right way, play hard and win,” Penney said.