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Spanish Springs boys basketball can't overcome porous start
by Dan Eckles
Jan 31, 2014 | 1132 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An abysmal first half pretty much sunk any hopes the Spanish Springs boys basketball team had of winning Friday night at Reno. In spite of playing what could have been their worst 16 minutes of the season, in the first two periods, the SSHS gang battled back to make the final score competitive, but the Cougars were still saddled with a 72-64 High Desert League loss.

Spanish Springs found itself down 11-0 before two minutes had even ticked off the clock. The Cougars could not handle Reno's defensive pressure before halftime and that led to Husky layups. The Purple and Silver's defensive effort was not up to par either and that led to more easy Huskies offensive opportunities.

A baseline runner by Jacob Rolling capped the scoring on the first period and saw Reno run out to a 22-6 lead.

"Reno's energy level was a whole lot greater than ours from the get go," Spanish Springs coach Kyle Penney said. "They came in and got right after it. We didn't get some catches bringing the ball up the court. That resulted in turnovers and those were quick transition buckets for them back the other way.

"Part of that was us struggling defensively. We couldn't keep them in front. Any one of those Reno guys went right by us. As a team and individuals, that's purely about pride. You must have quick feet and know you can get guys stopped. We weren't able to do that today."

The Cougars' poor early play continued to leave them falling further behind. A Connor Bush layup at the 3:00 mark of the second quarter left the Huskies holding a 34-10 lead. At that point, Reno had connected on 14 of its first 16 shots from the field.

Bush buried a trio of treys and finished with 26 points to lead all scorers. Kyle Mahaffey wasn't far behind, pouring in 24 more points for the host Huskies.

When halftime finally rolled around, Reno had built a 37-15 advantage.

"I've talked with, and kind of joked with, members of our coaching staff and some colleagues that we have the best practice shooting team in the country," Reno coach Matt Ochs said. "If you just came to practice you'd think we were the best shooting team around, but just in games, we haven't been there. We've made a concerted effort to talk to the guys about being confident in shooting the ball. Tonight, we shot it as well as we probably have in the last three or four weeks."

After managing just the 15 first-half points, Spanish Springs racked up 49 in the second half, largely on the strength of a 31-point fourth quarter.

Spanish Springs outscored Reno 18-14 in the third period. Still, a Mahaffey runner in the waning seconds of the period left Reno up by 18 going to the final quarter, 51-33.

That's when things started to get a little more interesting.

Spanish Springs opened the fourth quarter with nine straight points, thanks to a 3-pointer and 3-point play by senior point guard Kenny Meyer and a 3-pointer from Hunter Pinto. The outburst left Spanish Springs down by nine, 51-42, with more than six minutes remaining in the contest. The quick flurry saw the Cougars down by single digits for the first time since midway through the initial period.

Spanish Springs was not done. A Meyer trey on a kickout trimmed Reno's lead to six, 57-51 with 3:28 showing on the game clock. That's as close as the visitors could get. Mahaffey answered with a driving layup and pair of free throws on Reno's next two possession forging the RHS crew ahead 61-51.

The Cougars never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

"The only thing I talked about at halftime was that we needed to steady ourselves and anticipate a tremendous comeback from a team that is well coached and has a lot of experience," Ochs said. "Spanish Springs shot the ball really well (while trying to come back). Pinto made three 3-pointers and Kenny (Meyer) got going. Having given up 31 fourth-quarter points, we were really lucky to hang on and get that win."

Meyer finished with 24 points to lead the Spanish Springs scoring attack. Pinto added 13 points and Dupree Kness chipped in 11 in defeat.

Spanish Springs wound up shooting 23-of-54 (43 percent) from the field and gave away 17 turnovers. Additionally, the Cougars connected on just 12-of-23 free-throw attempts.

"It's admirable the way the kids played in the second half," Penney said. "They showed some staples of what we pride ourselves and our program on, a certain level of intensity and enthusiasm. But this can be a great learning experience. It shows us how attitude alone, and how you approach a game, can impact a game. We had that right attitude in the second half. We didn't have it to start."

A win Friday would have left Spanish Springs with a sweep of the season series against Reno and looking pretty to finish no worse than second in the final league standings. The loss leaves Spanish Springs (13-9) and Reno (13-8) both two games behind HDL-leading Reed, with four games to play, and tied for second place in the conference standings. The top two teams at the end of league play will host first-round playoff games while the HDL's third seed will travel for its postseason opener.

"Coming in, we didn't talk about it (playoff positioning) or anything," Penney said. "In hindsight, knowing now we had a chance to shore up for the most part (a home playoff berth) and then see the way we started game, that's not a good deal. The bottom line is we still control a lot of things, but that's not a big issue to me right now. We need to get better as team and take care of business Tuesday night."

A Tuesday crossover league home game against Carson is next up on the Spanish Springs schedule. Tip time is slated for 7 p.m.
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