Second-half run inches Spanish Springs towards league title
RENO — The Cougars did not start fast at McQueen on Friday night. They didn’t have to.
After falling into a 21-10 hole late in the first quarter, Spanish Springs went on an absurd 40-6 run that spanned early into the second half and never looked back, rolling to a 67-55 win.
“We didn’t turn the ball over, shared the ball, and played defense,” Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney of the game-deciding swing. “With our guys, that’s a pretty dangerous scenario.
“I just challenged them (after the first quarter). Our pregame was about ‘defense has to be the difference’ and that didn’t happen in the first quarter. So, I kindly reminded them of that, and they responded.”
The Cougars (17-4, 12-0) are now just two wins (with four games left) from securing the second league title in program history. The Lancers sunk to 5-7 in 4A North play.
Senior Marcus Loadholt was the biggest reason for the huge run that included a 32-4 advantage in the second quarter. Loadholt shot a rim the size of a community pool, going off for 20 of his game-high 30 points in the second quarter alone. He also passed out a team-high five assists to go along with five rebounds.
“It’s fun,” Penney said of Loadholt’s explosion. “It’s not just Marcus. Guys found him, too.”
Spanish Springs led 45-25 at the half and grew the difference to as much as 24 late in third, 56-32, before the Lancers started chipping away.
The final 12-point margin was the closest McQueen got to the Cougs since late in the second quarter.
“We didn’t finish,” Penney said. “They beat us the last 12 minutes of the game – the last four minutes of the third and the entire fourth. But we missed a lot of easy opportunities. I think fatigue, a little bit, because we didn’t get some early rotation and that’s my fault.”
Justus Eaglesmith (12 points) was the only other Coug to finish in double figures.
Hayden Millie led McQueen with 14 points, scoring seven in the first quarter to help McQueen to the early lead. Guillermo Ramos added 12, also scoring seven of his points in the first eight minutes.
Spanish Springs stays on the road Tuesday night, at North Valleys (2-10 in 4A North). A win followed by a home victory over Hug (3-9 in 4A North) next Friday would clinch the High Desert League title with two games left.
“We have nothing clinched,” Penney said. “Our word of the day the last two days is pursuit. I think we’re going to stay with that. There’s a thing we’re pursuing and it’s a game and achieving a goal that we need to get a home playoff game (which the Cougs have already clinched). We have to be in pursuit still.”
Reed improves positioning
If it wasn’t a must-win, it was something close to it.
Reed (7-13, 6-6) opened up a one-game lead over McQueen for third place on Friday night with a narrow 67-62 win at North Valleys.
The Panthers dropped to 2-10 in regional contests.
Ultimately, the difference between finishing third and fourth in the High Desert League won’t provide a huge difference. Both open on the road. But given the option between opening at the Sierra League champ, or the Sierra League runner up, first-year coach Joe Genung will chose the latter every time.
Lincoln Turner led the Raiders with 21 points in the road win. He also grabbed eight rebounds. Jeremy Ramos added 16 points and Matt Williams added 13.
Reed hosts Reno (9-3 in 4A North) on Tuesday then stays at home on Friday night for the biggest game the season, against McQueen.
4A North scoreboard
Spanish Springs 67, McQueen 55
Reed 67, North Valleys 62
Bishop Manogue 51, Douglas 45
Galena 40, Carson 31
Reno 64, Hug 36
Damonte Ranch 79, Wooster 59
Cougs ride defense to biggest win of season
RENO – Spanish Springs held McQueen to one fourth-quarter field goal Friday night and went on to pick up a huge 44-34 road win.
The Cougars (15-7, 9-3) entered in a three-way tie for second with McQueen and Reed, and are still in that tie with the Raiders. McQueen (14-8, 8-4) sunk into fourth place.
“It’s huge,” Spanish Springs coach Art Cardenas said. “We want to be in the driver’s seat, and we are now. We would’ve been in the back seat if we lost.”
Spanish Springs was in control throughout, but the final 10-point disparity matched the largest of the game. Kendra McAninch converted a layup early in the fourth to get McQueen within 35-33 before the Lancers were held to just one free throw the rest of the way.
The Cougs scored nine of the final 10 points to salt away the win and the regular-season sweep of the Lancers.
The strong late defense was needed as Spanish Springs went just 5-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
“As a coach, whenever you see your team miss free throws in the fourth quarter, you feel they’re going to go down and hit a three,” Cardenas said.
Anhelica Shanrock and Kierra Johnson both led the Cougs with nine points. Ireland Bennett chipped in seven.
McQueen’s Haley Webbert led all scorers with 13 points.
Spanish Springs was able to take the McQueen gym, one of the loudest in the 4A North, out of the game early. The Cougs led 24-14 late in the second quarter and took a 24-17 lead to the locker room.
Cardenas said fast starts on the road are always important, but stressed it carried even more weight Friday night in the especially rowdy environment.
The Cougs will attempt to keep pace with Reed, or potentially take over sole possession of second place, on Tuesday night when they travel to North Valleys. Just four games remain on the regular-season schedule.
Spanish Springs won the first meeting between the two teams, 56-30.
Reed thumps North Valleys
Reed kept pace with Spanish Springs on Friday night, handling North Valleys, 76-24, on the road.
The Raiders (15-4, 9-3) stayed in a second-place tie with the Cougs. The Panthers dropped to 5-7 in 4A North play – three games back of fourth-place McQueen.
Taylor Johnson led all scorers with 18 points in the win. Freshman Autumn Wadsworth wasn’t far behind. She poured in 17.
Nobody else, for either team, finished in double figures.
Reed held a modest 33-15 lead at the half, before outscoring the Panthers 43-9 in the third and fourth quarters.
The Raiders return to their home gym on Tuesday night to play first-place Reno. The Huskies won the first meeting, 66-37, with running clock early in the second quarter.
4A North scoreboard
Spanish Springs 44, McQueen 34
Reed 76, North Valleys 24
Galena 62, Carson 28
Reno 60, Hug 16
Damonte Ranch 58, Wooster 21
Bishop Manogue 84, Douglas 17