The Spanish Springs boys basketball team is the Rail City’s best chance at a regional title this week.
The Cougars, who were picked to win the High Desert League by the coaches in the preseason, finished second in the HDL at 16-8, 12-4.
At times, they’ve played the part of the favorite, looking like one of the region’s elite. At other times, they’ve looked like just one of the teams in the pack.
An argument can be made for the Cougs to win the regional title this week. An argument can also be made why it won’t happen. For Spanish Springs fans at least, we’ll start with the bad news first.
This is why Spanish Springs will not win the regional title:
1. The easy way to start this case is simply looking at history. Spanish Springs has never won the regional title.
So if it were to hoist the trophy on Saturday, it would be the first in program history.
2. The Cougars finished second the HDL yet still have a brutal draw.
If they can get past the defending DI North champs on tonight, who are playing their best ball of the season by the way, they will then likely have to play Carson. The Senators would enter that one 17-0 against DI North teams, including a commanding win at Spanish Springs earlier this season.
3. They come in with expectations.
The Cougars were arguably the most hyped team in Northern Nevada coming into the season and maybe they bought into that a little. They started the season a lackluster 2-2 in DI North play, which ultimately cost them a league title defense.
Playing at home, the pressure once again sits on the Cougs’ shoulders.
Okay, you can open your eyes now. It’s not all bad news. There are a number of reasons that justify a Spanish Springs run to the regional title:
1. They’re at home.
Playing in your home gym in the playoffs is a double-edged sword.
There are expectations. And there are distractions. But there will also be a big crowd that will play its part in controlling the momentum.
If the Cougs can avoid slow starts and build a lead early, it will be difficult for opponents to mount a comeback.
2. They’ve been here before.
Spanish Springs is a young squad that gets most of its production from the junior and sophomore class. However, they’re experienced.
Juniors Marcus Loadholt and Josh Prizina were key parts on last year’s squad that fell to Galena in the regional semifinals at Carson. They remember that loss.
This stage will be new to sophomore Jalen Townsell, who played his best game of the year on Friday night, scoring a game-high 18 points in the win over Reed. If Townsell continues to be aggressive on the offensive glass, he’s as dangerous as anyone in the tournament.
3. They have the best player in the tournament.
Nobody in Northern Nevada is as capable of putting the ball in the hoop as Loadholt.
He can create his own shot off the dribble and his range knows no limits.
Now a junior, he’s hardly a secret. Teams have keyed on him all year, which has opened lanes for his teammates. Loadholt gets a lot of the credit, but Prizina may be the team’s most valuable player.
When Loadholt and Prizina are both playing well, the Cougars become incredibly difficult to beat—especially at home.