Spanish Springs wound up capturing a 55-41 home win in Friday’s second go-round.
The Cougars were clinging to just a one-point lead at halftime, 17-16. However, there was no doubt about who had the momentum by the third quarter’s conclusion. Spanish Springs outscored McQueen 24-6 in the critical eight-minute stretch to take firm control of the conference clash.
McQueen trailed by just four, 24-20, after a bucket with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter, but Spanish Springs put together a 17-2 surge in the final 3:05 of the period and was never threatened again.
Tiffany Lang dropped two three-point bombs and had eight points in the outburst while Courtney Darby added six in the key spurt. That duo posted 18 and 14 points respectively on the night. Darby also contributed nine rebounds and three blocks to the winning cause.
Spanish Springs (18-10, 7-4) got a 12-foot jumper in the key from Darby and an Ari James free throw in the first minute of the fourth quarter to push its lead to a game-high 22 points, 44-22.
“I just thought our defense got some steals that led to easy baskets and we were able to convert in transition,” Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said of the big run.
The two teams traded buckets and a James layup kept the margin at 22, 46-24, at the 6:03 mark of the fourth quarter.
McQueen tried to hang around. A 9-2 Lancers run trimmed the margin to 15, 48-33, following a pair of foul shots by Carly Allinson, leaving 2:21 on the game clock. Spanish Springs nixed any MHS comeback hopes by scoring six of the next nine points over the next minute and half.
The visiting Lancers stayed in the game in the first half by dominating the glass. On the strength of 14 offensive boards, McQueen held a 27-17 rebounding edge at the intermission. Spanish Springs changed that theme after the break and was only out-rebounded 46-41 on the final stat sheet.
McQueen limited Spanish Springs leading scorer, Ari James, to just four points on 1-of-6 shooting. James still grabbed 13 rebounds and gave away six assists to help her team’s cause.
The Cougars’ struggles in the first half were partially due to their woes at the charity stripe and the Lancers’ success there. Spanish Springs knocked down just 5-of-11 at the foul line in the first two quarters. McQueen managed just three field goals in the first half but stayed in the game by hitting 9-of-12 free throws.
For the game, McQueen was 15-of-22 at the free-throw line. Overall, Spanish Springs still outscored its guests on freebies, canning 19-of-31.
Spanish Springs defenders did a job on McQueen shooters, limiting the Lancers to an 11-of-67 (16 percent) effort from the field. On the flip side, the Cougars connected on 17-of-42 (40 percent) from the floor.
“The last time (we played them), I thought they got a lot of transition baskets and got to the basket too easily,” Eckles said. “We wanted to make sure we kept them in front of us, forcing them to take tougher shots and obviously we did that.”
Jamie Speirsch and Channing Fleischmann scored 13 and 12 points to lead McQueen.
In addition to Lang and Darby finding double digits in the scoring column, senior point guard Caitlin McKinney added 10 points and six assists. Spanish Springs improved to 8-0 on the year when three players finish in double figures.
The Cougars, who had already locked up the HDL’s third playoff seed, wrap up their regular season today at Reed. The SSHS girls open the 4A Northern Region Tournament Tuesday at Galena at 7 p.m.
“I think we are definitely playing better,” Eckles said. “We still have room to improve but the season is getting shorter. I’m just happy we’re playing better, especially down the stretch here as we get ready for the playoffs.”