Spanish Springs kicked the season off with eight straight victories en route to an 11-1 start, including a 4-1 opening to D-I North play. A 3-3 stretch over the next six games, with a league loss at Bishop Manogue and an HDL home victory over McQueen, slowed the Purple and Silver’s jump out of the gate, but then the Cougars got back to where they left off. In the final nine games of the season, SSHS closed with a 7-2 mark capped by a 48-28 win over rival Reed that set up a rematch with Carson at the Senators’ home in the quarterfinals of the Division I North playoffs.
This time around, Spanish Springs got the better of the Senators, advancing to the semifinals — via a 53-45 win — for only the second time in school history. There, the Cougars’ season ended with a 56-41 loss to Reno. Despite being knocked out of the playoffs, Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles said she was still happy with the overall accomplishments of her team.
“Our first goal was to make the playoffs, which we did,” Eckles said. “I think that we felt like we were one of the top four teams in the area and I felt like we proved that. We got a win against Reed, which was great and then we made it to the second round of the playoffs. We lost to a really great Reno team and of course you would like to keep playing, but I don’t think we have anything to be ashamed of. I feel like we did accomplish things we set out to do.”
Spanish Springs finished its season with a mark of 22-7, setting the record for most wins in program history. Part of that success was due to the senior leadership on the floor for the Cougars. While Eckles said that guidance was to be expected, she said its source at times was a nice surprise.
“I think we always know what we’re going to get out of Lyndsey (Anderson). In my years of coaching, I really only have had one other kid to compare her to as far as her every day work ethic and intensity level. You always know you’re going to get that with Lyndsey, but I really felt positive about a couple other things, too.
“Midway through the season I thought that Riley (Holladay) took a great leadership role and became kind of our go-to scorer. I kept telling her that she needed to play quicker and once she started to do that, I think it really demonstrated that she’s ready to play at the next level. She was just the best player on the floor at times. The other great thing for us was Laneesha (Terrance). We knew Laneesha had potential, and to be honest, her junior year we thought she underachieved. But she put in a lot of hard work over the summer and she played well. She played big in big games and I was really proud of what she did. She was kind of that x-factor that coaches talk about. She provided us some good inside balance.”
Now as Eckles steps down from her coaching position with Spanish Springs, she said her last season with the Cougars is one that she will always remember.
“It was really just a great group of kids that came to practice every day and worked. There was little to no drama. We just had a good time,” Eckles said. “The kids all had a great sense of humor and worked hard. I’m super proud of the kids and the way they handled things all season long with maturity and strength. It was just a mature, fun, hard-working group of kids to be around. As a coach, that’s kind of all you can ask for. It was just a pleasure.”
•Like its girls counterpart, the Spanish Springs boys basketball team also got off to a fast start that proved to propel it through the rest of its season.
After dropping their opening night game against Douglas, Spanish Springs took a pair of league victories over Wooster and North Valleys to improve to 2-1 in league play. From there, the Cougars won six of their next seven contests, including 56-51 and 64-46 HDL wins over Reno and Hug, respectively, as SSHS went into the winter break holding an 8-2 mark overall and 4-1 in the D-I North.
Following a 2-2 showing at the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic, Spanish Springs returned to northern Nevada and continued its winning ways with a 67-56 victory at Manogue to move to 5-1 against league competition. A three-game losing streak abruptly silenced the Cougars though. Spanish Springs countered that losing streak with a trio of consecutive wins, but losses in its next three games left the Cougars scrambling for playoff positioning. A win over rival Reed quieted the worries though, earning Spanish Springs the HDL’s No. 2 spot.
Hosting Carson in the first-round, the Cougars saw their season ended by a free throw with 0.3 seconds on the game clock. Still, Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said he was proud of his team this season.
“I was pleased in the big picture,” Penney said. “If you look at where we were last year and who we had coming back, I think we did a lot of great things that necessarily weren’t expected of us. We went from not being in the playoffs to being a two-seed in the playoffs. We won some pretty big games this year, so we have a lot to be proud of.
“We put ourselves in a position to host a first-round playoff game and although we didn’t come through in the first round, which is obviously disappointing because no one wants the season to end, it doesn’t take away the accomplishments we had throughout the whole season. I’m pleased with what our kids did and how far they came within a year.”
Penney said the progress that was made over the Cougars’ 15-11 campaign will only help the program moving forward.
“Every team goes in with the goal that you want to make the playoffs. If you get in, then it’s a crapshoot,” he said. “We met some goals that we set. We fully believed that we could win a league championship and we had plenty of opportunities to take steps toward those goals and we’ve never been in that situation before. It was a great opportunity for us to be in that situation. Now the younger kids can learn from that and will know what it’s like the next time they’re in that spot.”