RENO—And then the High Desert League was Reno’s to lose.
The Spanish Springs boys went to Reno on Friday night with the chance to move into first place. Instead, the Cougs tumbled all the way to third in the HDL with a 61-56 road loss.
The Cougars, who saw a three-game winning streak come to a close, fell to 9-7, 5-3 in the DI North—two games back of Reno and one game back of McQueen. Reno (11-6, 7-1) won its fourth straight.
“The championship is not won today. It’s not lost today,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “We have some work to do, no doubt.”
Trailing 57-55 with 8.4 seconds left, Spanish Springs big man Ryan Anderson stepped to the line with the chance to tie the game for the first time since it was 15 all early in the second quarter. He missed the first and hit the second.
On Reno’s following possession, Karn Goraya hit two free throws to extend Reno’s lead to three with 7.4 seconds left. With the chance to tie the game with a triple, the Cougs turned the ball over on their following possession and watched their league title hopes take a blow.
“It’s huge,” Reno coach Matt Ochs said. “Partly because they are a really, really good basketball team and Marcus (Loadholt) is all-world, all-everything. So it’s a really big win.”
The Huskies had hands on Loadholt all night and held the Player of the Year candidate to seven points in the second half, 17 total.
It was also Reno’s defense that prevented Spanish Springs from grabbing control in the pivotal HDL contest. The Huskies led the entire second half, primarily by one or two possessions.
The Huskies’ grabbed their largest lead of the night, 42-34, with 2:50 left in the third. Spanish Springs responded with five straight to get within three. The lead again swelled to seven, 48-41, before the Cougs, who struggled to find an offensive rhythm all night, grinded their way back into the contest leading to the dramatic finish.
“Credit Reno. They didn’t make many mistakes,” Penney said. “We didn’t make some shots. We had some open looks we didn’t make and the free throw line … Close games, good teams, the free throw line is going to be a difference.”
Reno was 15-of-20 from the free throw line while Spanish Springs hit 11-of-21 freebies.
The Huskies’ Mike Heydon led all scorers with 20. Logan Shaw had 10.
Josh Prizina (14 points) and Bryce DeLong (10 points) reached double digits for the Cougs.
Spanish Springs trailed 30-28 after a first half that featured five lead changes and five ties.
Shaw put back a miss early in the second quarter to give Reno a 17-15 lead and the Huskies led the rest of the half, although by a thin margin. Heydon hit a pair of free throws to give Reno a 22-17 edge, the biggest difference of the first half, but the Cougs answered with four straight points to get within one.
Reno’s lead bounced around from three to one the rest of the half.
The two squads were tied 10-10 after the first quarter.
The Cougars face another tough test on Tuesday night at home against McQueen. The two teams played each other on Dec. 29 in San Diego and Spanish Springs rolled 55-38. Tuesday’s contest, however, is much more meaningful.
The winner owns second place and remains within arm’s reach of Reno.
“It’s day to day. We have to get better every day,” Penney said. “I think we got caught up in that with the (preseason) hype … We’re going to do what we do.”
Turner, Ramos lead Reed over Hug
The Reed boys improved to 6-10, 3-5 in the DI North with a 66-53 home win over Hug on Friday night.
Hug dropped to 1-14, 0-8.
With the win, the Raiders opened up a 1.5 game lead over North Valleys for the fourth and final playoff spot in the High Desert League. North Valleys convincingly lost to McQueen on Friday night.
Reed’s two leading scorers were themselves in the win as Lincoln Turner went for 23 points and Jeremy Ramos finished with 22.
Reed held a narrow 34-30 lead at the half but took a 50-40 lead to the fourth and held off Zonathan Williams and the Hawks over the final eight minutes. Williams finished with 20.
The Raiders have the chance to add anther game to their lead over North Valleys on Tuesday night, at North Valleys. Tip is at 7 p.m.