Cougars create cushion
Staked with an 18-point lead late in the second quarter, Jalen Townsell drove baseline and elevated.
By the time he landed, he had thrown down what very well would could be the dunk of the year, posterizing a Reno defender and sending the vociferous student section into a frenzy. It was an early punctuation mark on what turned into a convincing 73-58 home win over the Huskies.
“Jalen has that ability on multiple nights,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said with a grin.
The eighth-straight win puts the Cougars (15-4, 10-0) in an awfully good spot to win just their second league title ever. They are now a full three games ahead of second-place Reno (14-5, 7-3) with just six games remaining.
“Spanish Springs is really good,” Reno coach Matt Ochs said. “That’s what happened.”
The victory was thorough for the home team. They jumped out to a 23-14 lead after the first quarter and never led by fewer than 12 the rest of the way after starting the second quarter on a 13-2 run.
Townsell ending up finishing with a team-high 20 points, including two on another rim-rattling dunk, an alley-oop from Marcus Loadholt, moments after his first highlight of the night.
Loadholt started the night slowly by his standards, scoring just six points in the first three quarters. Still, thanks largely to Townsell and Korbin Marcum (13 points), the Cougs took a 53-38 lead to the final quarter.
Then the reigning player of the year took over. He scored 12 of his 19 points in the fourth to help swell the lead to 68-44 – the largest of the night.
Reno did not bow out, scoring 14 of the final 19 points from that point to finish with the final 15-point margin.
“I feel good,” Penney said. “I’m super proud of our kids. Their preparation and executing the game plan was very, very good for three and-a-half quarters, if not for the whole game. Fatigue hurt us a little bit late, but overall, man, game plan and execution and scouting report, they did a great job.”
Tommy Challis was a bright spot for Reno in the loss. The junior big man was nearly indefensible in spurts and finished with a game-high 22 points. Drew Rippingham scored 17.
It just wasn’t enough to keep up with Spanish Springs’ offense, which had one of its best shooting nights of the year.
“They play hard. They’re well coached. They have the defending player of the year. And if Marcus isn’t the player of the year, Jalen should probably be the player of the year,” Ochs said. “They shot the ball really well.”
Spanish Springs was without starting senior guard Bryce DeLong, who did not suit up. Penney could not comment on his absence or when/if he will return.
The Cougars remain at home on Tuesday and will host Reed (6-12, 5-5).
Raiders win second straight
Reed survived a trap game on Friday night, hanging on to edge Hug, 57-53, at home.
The Raiders improved to 6-12, 5-5 in the 4A North three days after an upset win at McQueen and four days before a road game at first-place Spanish Springs.
“(It was a) trap game,” Reed coach Joe Genung said. “They (Hawks) are a well-coached team that plays hard and to their strengths.”
4A North scoreboard
Spanish Springs 73, Reno 58
Reed 57, Hug 53
Galena 47, Douglas 38 (OT)
Bishop Manogue 67, Damonte Ranch 57
Carson 67, Wooster 50
McQueen 74, North Valleys 58
Reno pulls away from Spanish Springs
For the last three plus years, Reno has been on a different level than the rest of the High Desert League – Spanish Springs included.
It doesn’t appear their reign is going to end this year, but the Cougs gave them a good game on Friday night.
The Cougars remained within arm’s length late in the third quarter, down 12, before ultimately falling out of first place with a 61-40 home loss.
“I don’t believe in (moral victories), but I was pleased with how we worked, the effort we put out there,” Spanish Springs coach Art Cardenas said. “We were flying around, working hard on the defensive end.”
Reno entered the game tied with Spanish Springs atop the HDL standings and now sits alone in first place at 18-4, 9-1. The Cougs fell into a tie for second place with McQueen at 14-6, 8-2.
“They (Cougars) have improved a lot,” Reno coach Shane Foster said. “Art has done a great job over there. Art’s always been the offensive guy and they run their stuff. They run their pick-and-roll. At times we defended it well, and other times we didn’t defend it well.”
Mackenzie O’Connell was left open behind the arc late in the third and hit nylon to get the Cougs within 42-30. Then the athletically superior Huskies asserted themselves.
Spanish Springs did not hit another field goal until the 3:08 mark in the fourth, after the deficit swelled to 24 – the largest of the night.
“They hit some shots,” Cardenas said. “We fell asleep defensively a couple times, but they hit some shots. They’re a good team. They’re going to make you pay when you make mistakes.”
Despite the game being relatively close through much of the third quarter, Reno was in control throughout. The Huskies led 16-8 after the first quarter, 28-18 at the half, and 46-30 going to the fourth.
Ireland Bennett led the Cougs with nine points.
Reno’s Mikayla Shults led everyone with 16. Kaitlynn Biassou added 11.
Spanish Springs stays at home on Tuesday night for another big game, playing host to Reed (12-4, 7-3).
Reed rebounds against Hug
Reed ended a mini two-game skid with a 78-25 home win over Hug on Friday night.
Junior Taylor Johnson hit five shots from beyond the arc to match the Hawks by herself, finishing with 25 points, as the Raiders improved to 13-4, 7-3. Hug remained winless.
Sophomore Vanessa Hernandez was the only other Raider in double figures, going for 21 points.
Johnson scored 11 of her 25 points in the second quarter as the hosts opened up a 50-14 lead they took to the locker room.
Reed, which sits in fourth place, can potentially move all the way up to second with a win at Spanish Springs (14-6, 8-2) on Tuesday night.
4A North scoreboard
Reno 61, Spanish Springs 40
Reed 78, Hug 25
Bishop Manogue 76, Damonte Ranch 20
Douglas 43, Galena 42
McQueen 49, North Valleys 31
Carson 44, Wooster 21