For the second-straight year, Spanish Springs saw its season come to a close at the hands of Galena.
The Cougars were eliminated on Wednesday with a 63-50 home loss to the Grizzlies in a DI North quarterfinal. Last year, Galena knocked Spanish Springs out in the regional semifinals at Carson.
As was the problem a season ago, the Cougars couldn’t solve the Grizzlies’ defense. Turnovers, missed layups and errant shots far outnumbered productive offensive trips and it cost the Cougs their season.
“You have to credit their defense for sure, but the decision making wasn’t good,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. “We’d get a turnover and our shot selection wasn’t great. We were really stagnant. We wouldn’t make a pass when the time was needed. We were just kind of a step behind.”
After scoring 18 points in the first quarter and leading as much as 18-11, the Cougs managed just nine field goals over the next 20 minutes. At that point, with just three minutes left in the fourth, they trailed 52-38 and the final minutes were but a formality. Galena hit seven of its final eight free throws.
While the offensive woes were obvious (the 50 points were the fewest the Cougars had scored since a 52-47 nonleague loss to Mater Dei Catholic on Dec. 30 in San Diego), the defense didn’t fare much better.
Zach Williams went off for a game-high 20 points, Moses Wood had 17 and Dillon Voyles had 15. The three alone outscored Spanish Springs 52-50.
“I thought (Williams) and Voyles could score at will, we couldn’t guard either one,” Penney said. “We talked about it multiple times. They played loose, they played confident. That’s something that we were supposed to do. And we didn’t.”
The Cougs trailed by six at the half but the deficit quickly ballooned to 10 in the third quarter, 38-28, thanks to a 6-0 Galena run. The lead bounced around from six to nine the rest of the quarter before Justus Eaglesmith cut it to 43-38 with a traditional three-point play 80 seconds into the fourth.
Galena answered with a 9-0 to over the next four minutes to grab its largest lead of the game, 52-38, then melted the final minutes off the clock to hand the Cougs the home playoff loss.
“(It was) just lack of execution,” Penney said. “No transition into flow of offense and then you can’t get stop on the other end and it kind of just built up on us.”
Bryce DeLong led the Cougs with 11 points. He was the only Spanish Springs player to finish in double figures. Marcus Loadholt and Eaglesmith both had seven.
Thanks largely to the effort of Voyles, the Grizzlies led 32-26 at the break—matching their largest advantage of the first two quarters.
After scoring one point in the first quarter, Voyles had 12 in the second to erase an 18-14 hole. His traditional three-point play with 4:21 left gave Galena its first lead of the night, 21-20.
The junior then hit a step back three with 52 seconds remaining to cap a 9-4 spurt and put the guests in front 30-24.
Both squads traded buckets in the waning seconds.
Spanish Springs led 18-11 with the ball in the final seconds of the first quarter but a double dribble gave the ball to Galena and Noah Peck drained a deep three at the buzzer.
The Grizzlies, who avenged a 58-52 home loss to the Cougars on Jan. 8, improved to 17-10 on the season and will play Carson in the semifinals on Friday.
The Cougars, who will return four starters next year, finished the year that had lofty expectations at 16-9.
“We just didn’t get any breaks (tonight),” Penney said. “Sometimes that happens.”
Wednesday’s DI North quarterfinal scores
Galena (Sierra League No. 3) 63, Spanish Springs (High Desert League No. 2) 50
Carson (SL No. 1) 57, Reed (HDL No. 4) 31
McQueen (HDL No. 3) 62, Bishop Manogue (SL No. 2) 45
Reno (HDL No. 1) 67, Douglas (SL No. 4) 56
Friday’s DI North semifinal matchups
Reno vs. McQueen, 5:30 p.m.
Carson vs. Galena, 7:15 p.m.