CARSON – At first glance, it would be easy to say Spanish Springs lost because Aidan Cantwell hit a game-winning triple inside of 10 seconds left.
Cantwell’s three ball lifted Bishop Manogue over Spanish Springs, 54-51, in Thursday night’s 4A North semifinal and turned away a herculean effort from Marcus Loadholt.
That’s how the Cougs lost. That’s now why they lost.
“We couldn’t get anything going,” said Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney, whose team scored a season-low 51 points and was just 2-of-16 from deep. “We were just a step behind, or a half second behind all night long and it affected us. We couldn’t catch a break.”
Spanish Springs grinded out a 29-26 lead late in the third only to give up an ensuing 14-0 run and suddenly sat in a 40-29 hole early in the fourth. Considering the offensive pace, the 11-point deficit felt like 25.
But Loadholt, a senior and arguably the best player in Spanish Springs program history, wasn’t going to be a spectator as time ran out on his prep career.
The lead remained at double digits, 49-37, inside of two minutes to play. Then Loadholt, with the help of several Bishop Manogue turnovers, took over.
He hit six straight free throws and scored Spanish Springs’ final seven points, including a game-tying triple with 22 seconds left. It was the final made basket of his illustrious career. He finished with a game-high 24 points.
“(Loadholt) was big down the stretch,” Penney said. “Obviously, he hit the three and big, timely shots.”
Out of a timeout, Bishop Manogue melted clock then kicked to Cantwell, who hit the dagger. Loadholt’s contested triple from the corner, at the buzzer, drew front iron.
The defeat ended Spanish Springs’ winning streak at 16 games, and eliminated hopes of a perfect season (in regional play) and a first regional title. The Cougars finished with a 23-5 record.
Bishop Manogue improved to 20-9 and was victorious for the ninth time in 10 games.
“We couldn’t ask for a better scenario,” Bishop Manogue first-year coach Moe Golshani said of Cantwell’s shot. “We have our leading scorer, our senior, our leader with the ball in his hands … Honestly, it shouldn’t have been that close. We let them back in the game.
“I believe we’re the better team. We’re deeper. We’re more disciplined. They (Cougars) are very good … That’s a damn good team, a damn good coach. Marcus Loadholt is a fantastic player.”
Cantwell shared the team lead with Kolton Frugoli. Both scored 19 points. Frugoli, a sophomore, was an unlikely source of offense, averaging 7.2 points per game this season.
“He (Frugoli) was huge for us,” Golshani said. “He started off with an air ball, then hit a couple threes.”
Jalen Townsell was the only other Spanish Springs player in double figures. He scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter, contributing to the comeback effort.
His final bucket of the first three quarters gave the Cougs an early 13-7 lead after scoring the first seven points of the contest.
Just like they would do later in the game, the Miners quickly responded with a run, this a 12-0 burst, to go in front 19-13.
Bishop Manogue advanced to the regional title game on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Carson against Reno, which beat Galena thanks to a last-second three in the other semifinal.
Spanish Springs is left to think what could have been as a deep and talented class of eight seniors donned purple on the hardwood for the final time.
“I just feel bad for the seniors,” Penney said. “I mean, you feel bad for everybody, but the mark the seniors have left on the program is what means the most. You try not define the season or career some of those guys have had by one game.
“We just have a great group of kids, 16-0 in league play means a lot. You did something right. It comes down to one game. That’s the way it goes.”
Reno 47, Galena 46
Reno led for no more than 30 seconds of Thursday’s first 4A North semifinal against Galena at Carson. The Huskies led when it mattered though.
Drew Rippinghim wiggled open beyond the arc inside of 10 seconds left in the fourth and his team down two. He didn’t hesitate.
Reno 47. Galena 46. Final.
His game-winner capped an 18-point performance, 11 of which came in the fourth quarter after a seven-point first quarter. The triple gave Reno (21-6) just its second lead of the night. The Huskies briefly led 21-20 in the second quarter.
It was largely Rippingham’s effort that pulled the Huskies out of a 41-29 hole going to the fourth quarter and sent the Huskies to their second straight regional title game.
Dillon Voyles’ heave following Rippingham’s dagger came up short.
Galena (22-6) kept Reno at arm’s length nearly the entire night before the late theater. It led by as much as six in the first half and by just four late in the third, 33-29, before closing the third stanza on an 8-0 run.
Spencer Conatser and Moses Wood buried triples to put the Grizzlies up 12 going to the fourth. Galena only hit two field goals and were outscored 18-5 over the final eight minutes.
Galena didn’t do itself any favors at the free throw line either. The Sierra League champs went 1-for-3 at the charity stripe in the final 20 seconds, setting up Rippingham’s winner.
Wood led the Grizzlies with 12 points. Voyles finished with 10 – six at free throw line.
Tommy Challis scored all 12 of his points in the first half for the Huskies.
Reno advanced to the 4A North title game on Saturday in Carson, where it will play Bishop Manogue.