For the first quarter and a half, the Cougars had gone through the motions. But when the Lancers took a 14-13 lead with 4:45 left in the first half, it was the wake-up call Spanish Springs needed.
The Lady Cougars closed out the half on an 18-3 run and cruised to a 55-33 High Desert League triumph to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“I thought we made some switches on defense that allowed us to get some turnovers, so that helped. Then we had some different people hit some shots during that stretch,” SSHS girls basketball coach Christine Eckles said.
After McQueen grabbed its only lead of the game, Kaylie Humphreys scored down low on back-to-back trips as part of a 6-0 run by the Cougars.
McQueen’s Sierra Baker stopped the bleeding momentarily when she scored along the baseline, but the Purple and Teal reeled off 12 unanswered points before the Lancers ended the first-half’s scoring with a free throw.
Spanish Springs (14-11, 5-6 HDL) went into halftime enjoying a 31-17 cushion, but the Cougars weren’t out of the woods yet.
The Lancers were able to cut the deficit down to 11 three different times in the third quarter, the last being 34-23 with 2:51 to go in the quarter. However, the northwest Reno school never made it a single-digit game.
A three-point play by senior Ari James initiated what turned into a 9-1 spurt to end the quarter for Spanish Springs. James was one half of the double-double tandem against the Lancers. James finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, while freshman teammate Lyndsey Anderson had 10 points and 10 boards.
It was a career-high in rebounds for James and the first time in school history two Cougars had a double-double in the same game. It also helped Spanish Springs win the war on the glass, 46 rebounds to McQueen’s 27.
“Lyndsey and Ari did a great job on the boards, and they usually do. They do a good job making sure they box out. We needed them tonight to rebound because I’m not sure the other three girls on the court were doing it as well as they were,” Eckles said. “Ari is playing for her season. She doesn’t want it to end. I think Lyndsey doesn’t want the season to end either, but she’s stepping up and showing us the type of player she can be for this program in the future.”
The visitors took a 43-24 lead into the final eight minutes and pushed the gap to the 20-point mark in the opening seconds of the fourth thanks to a Humphreys free throw.
Humphreys contributed 11 points to the winning cause. Sam Owens was also in double figures with 10, making it the first time this season four SSHS players reached double figures in the same outing.
The Spanish Springs defense held the hosts without a field goal until Jaycee Abel hit a 3-pointer with 1:40 to play. McQueen got the deficit down to 19 with just over a minute left, 50-31, but could get no closer and finished with two makes from the floor in the period.
Katy Hufford and Baker led the home team with eight points apiece, while Taylor Baker added seven. All three are sophomores on a young Lancers team that finished league play in sixth place with a 3-9 record.
With the win, it means today’s regular-season finale between Reed and Spanish Springs means something. A win and the Cougars are in the postseason. It would also mean the Cougars knocking off the Raiders for the first time in the nine years Spanish Springs has been open.
“It feels really good (to win tonight),” Eckles said. “You’d like to be playing relaxed because you know you’re going to the playoffs. If not, the best-case scenario is the last game matters. We’ve got an opportunity in front of us. We’re just going to go play as hard as we can and see what happens.”
Tip-off is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. at Spanish Springs.