That’s what senior Brandon Delong did for the Spanish Springs boys basketball squad Friday night. Delong scored 25 first-half points and helped the Cougars cruise to a 75-38 non-league victory over Atwater, Calif.
Spanish Springs struggled offensively in the early going, unlike earlier in the week against Wooster. The Cougars turned the ball over five times in the first four minutes of action.
However, Atwater failed to capitalize as much as it could have. The Falcons still grabbed a 10-7 lead as the game approached the halfway mark of the first quarter. The visitors even pushed their edge to as much as five, 12-7, with 3:20 left in the first.
But three straight turnovers by Atwater allowed Spanish Springs to regain the lead. Delong’s second trey of the game was sandwiched between two buckets down low in the paint by senior center Brian Smith, handing the Cougars a 14-12 advantage at the 1:45 mark of the first quarter.
“We changed the tempo of the game. We didn’t have any energy. Guys weren’t talking on the floor. That‘s why I was on the sideline asking them who‘s talking,” SSHS boys basketball coach Kyle Penney said. “I called a timeout and changed the defensive sets. We got a couple turnovers and made buckets. The tempo and momentum went to our favor.”
Spanish Springs wasn’t done though. The defense forced a turnover on a fourth consecutive possession by Atwater and Delong came down and scored on a drive while being fouled. Delong knocked down the free throw to convert the three-point play.
The Cougars picked up a steal on the ensuing inbounds play, and Delong hit a 3-pointer from the corner for his 14th point of the quarter. The hosts scored 13 unanswered points off five straight turnovers for a 20-12 cushion heading into the second quarter.
Spanish Springs went up by double digits for the first time as Delong continued his dominance, opening the second quarter with a floater for a 22-12 score.
Atwater stopped the 15-0 run with a free throw, but SSHS sophomore Jake Longero hit a 3-pointer in transition.
The Falcons’ Hector Rodriguez also drained a shot from the outside for three of his team-high 10 points. But the California school couldn’t get closer than the nine-point margin (25-16) the rest of the way after Delong dropped in five straight points for the Cougs. That left the Purple and White leading 30-16 with 4:35 to go in the first half.
Atwater ended a scoring drought of over four minutes that saw Spanish Springs rally for 12 straight points. A long 2-pointer by Dalton Beatty cut the deficit to 37-18 with 1:28 remaining before halftime.
Prowess on the offensive glass led to a five-point trip down the floor by the Cougars. Delong scored on a putback and was fouled. He missed his free throw, but Austin Damoth was there to put in the rebound. He also was fouled during his shot attempt, and sank the foul shot for a three-point play and a 42-19 edge. It was the largest margin of the first half.
Atwater scored five of the final seven points of the first half, leaving it trailing 44-23 at the break. Delong single-handedly outscored the Falcons 25-23 in the first 16 minutes of play.
Not much changed as the two teams came back out of the locker rooms.
It took nearly two minutes for Spanish Springs to score, but it took almost twice as long for Atwater.
The Cougars opened the second half on an 11-0 run, which was only stopped because the Falcons went to the charity stripe thanks to a technical foul. The two free throws made it a 30-point game, 55-25, with 4:12 to go in the third quarter.
The second half of the third quarter allowed Spanish Springs to build on its lead even more as it took a 65-29 advantage into the fourth quarter.
“That’s something we try to spend a lot of time working on. We’ve lacked the killer instinct in the past, and we’ve finished off two teams in a row,” Penney said. “We’ve done a lot of things to get to that level. We’re slowly getting there. There’s still work to be done.”
The last eight minutes was just a battle mostly between Spanish Springs’ reserves and the Falcons‘ starters. The Cougars still won the quarter 12-9.
Delong saw limited action in the second half and finished with a game-high 27 points for the second straight outing. Smith added 13 points in the winning cause.
Spanish Springs (2-0) continues its weekend against California foes when it hosts Bear River today at 2 p.m.