They needed that one.
For at least one more game, Spanish Springs kept realistic hopes of defending its league title alive with a 70-56 home comeback victory over McQueen on Tuesday night.
The Cougars improved to 10-7, 6-3 in the DI North with the win while the Lancers dropped to 12-8, 6-3. Spanish Springs holds the head-to-head tiebreaker for second place over McQueen but both teams remain two games back of first-place Reno with seven games remaining.
Spanish Springs has already lost at Reno while McQueen is yet to play the Huskies.
“(It was) very big,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said of the win’s significance. “It was one of the games it could be a defining moment in the season, going either way. Fortunately, our guys were able to wake up a little bit and get some things accomplished.”
After trailing by as much as nine midway through the second quarter, the Cougars found their shooting touch in the second half. They hit 18-of-26 shots from the field to outscore the Lancers 46-30 over the final two quarters.
Marcus Loadholt was the driving force.
After scoring just seven points in the first half, he exploded for 17 in the second half to finish with a game-high 24 points.
“It was big. It was big,” Penney said. “And credit to our guys, it’s not just Marcus. Our guys are smart enough to find him and got him in rhythm, got him a few in a row so he didn’t lose the feel. That’s credit to all our guys.”
After Jalen Townsell hit a pair of free throws to give Spanish Springs a narrow 41-39 edge with 1:42 left in the third, matching its largest lead of the night, the Loadholt show began.
The junior hit his third triple of the night 30 seconds later and hit another at the third quarter buzzer to suddenly push the Cougs in front 47-39 going to the fourth.
His jumper from the elbow less than a minute into the fourth capped a 12-0 Spanish Springs run that morphed at tie at 39 into a comfortable 51-39 advantage.
“That’s defensively us not paying attention to assignments, not following through with what has been asked of us,” McQueen coach John Franklin said. “He (Loadholt) is good, but if we stick to what we were told to do, it makes it difficult for him. We decided later in the game to make it easy for him. And when you do that, he’s going to shoot you out of the game. And that’s what happened.”
The lead ballooned to as large as 16, 68-52, with 2:19 remaining after a Josh Prizina fast break flush before the final seconds ticked off the Spanish Springs scoreboard.
Perhaps shadowed by Loadholt’s second half, Prizina had a solid night of his own, finishing with 16.
“In the first half, to keep us hanging around, Josh was key,” Penney said.
Townsell chipped in 11 to also finish in double figures for the Cougs.
Octavian Corley, McQueen’s 6-10 center, led the way for the Lancers with 16 points and seven blocks. Tavian Cheathon-Dayton and Garrett Ill each had 12 in the road loss.
At the half, Spanish Springs trailed by a bucket, 26-24.
Loadholt hit a triple with 5:36 left in the second, his first points of the night, to get the Cougars within 16-15 but the Lancers responded with eight-straight fast break points.
Spanish Springs rebuttaled with a 7-0 run of its own to get within two, 24-22, before the two teams traded buckets going into the locker room.
“This is not a team you’re going to put away,” Franklin said. “This is a game you have to play all 32 minutes … They fought and that’s what Kyle Penney teams do.”
McQueen started the game on a 6-0 run and held its biggest lead of the initial quarter, 12-4, before the hosts closed on a 6-2 spurt to trail 14-10 going to the second.
Spanish Springs will attempt to remain two games back of Reno, or potentially pick up a game, on Friday night at North Valleys (7-8, 2-6). Tip is at 7 p.m.
“We’re not talking about playoffs. We’re talking about North Valleys on Friday night,” Penney said. “Because there are a lot things we need to get better at.”
Reed stumbles at North Valleys
Reed entered Tuesday night’s contest at North Valleys 1.5 games ahead of the Panthers for the fourth and final playoff spot in the High Desert League.
That lead is down to a half game.
The Raiders had no answer for Jalen Meadors (26 points) or Josh Mean (24 points) and were handed an 81-66 road loss.
Reed dropped to 6-11, 3-6 while North Valleys improved to 7-8, 2-6.
The Raiders finished on the wrong end despite 27 points from Lincoln Turner. Jeremy Ramos had 13 and Marianos Kalderimoglou had 10.
Meadors and Mean weren’t the only Panthers to finish in double figures. AJ Dennis had 11 and Sean Flanary had 10.
Reed actually outscored North Valleys 46-42 after halftime but it wasn’t nearly enough after falling in a 39-20 hole.
The Panthers scored at least 20 points in every quarter with the exception of the second, when they scored 19.
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Raiders on Friday when they host first-place Reno at 7 p.m.