The Raiders (17-3, 13-3) were locked into the High Desert League No. 2 spot while Spanish Springs (18-7, 9-7) was locked into third.
On paper, the game was for pride. But on the court, it was much more. And the result was a dramatic rivalry game that came down to the final possession with the Cougars pulling out a 54-51 road win.
It was the first time the Spanish Springs girls basketball program won at Reed, after falling the first 12 times in the RHS gym.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Spanish Springs coach Art Cardenas said. “I told the girls (it was the first win at Reed) and they were happy about it. Yeah, it was a good win for us.”
After trailing the majority of the night, Reed's Tyler Sumpter buried a 3-pointer with 1:15 left to put the Raiders in front 51-50. It was Reed’s first lead since a momentary 33-32 advantage after an Aneesa Mwakapumba free throw. Reed’s last lead prior to the Mwakapumba free throw was at 22-21 early in the second quarter. Sumpter finished with a team-high 23 points.
Spanish Springs’ Mariah Vargas was fouled on the Cougars’ next possession and calmly drilled what proved to be game-winning free throws, putting the Cougs in front 52-51 with 1:03 left.
“We had actually been messing around in practice before because, this game, playoff wise, didn’t mean anything. It was kind of just for pride, so we did some free throw competitions that I had won in the practice. So I knew it was fine,” Vargas said. “I wasn’t really nervous.”
Vargas finished the final regular season game of her career with a career-high 24 points – none more important than her final two.
“I was just on the bus and I was thinking this is my last time. This is the last rivalry (game against Reed) and I don’t know. It was just kind of a (farewell) to high school and all the memories we had,” Vargas said. “That definitely helped, just coming in and playing.”
After the Vargas free throws, and stingy defense, Spanish Springs forced Reed to inbound the ball under its own hoop with 7.4 seconds left.
Reed coach Sara Ramirez drew up a play not for Sumpter, who most believed would take the shot, or to Nakiyah LeSure who finished with 16, but for senior TT McFalls. Assuming Spanish Springs would key on Sumpter, McFalls found a hole in the defense 10 feet from the hoop on the baseline but the potential game-winner didn’t fall.
It was the story of the night for the Raiders, who shot 30 percent from the floor (17-of-56).
“It was for TT. She’s a senior,” Ramirez said. “I kind of was hoping the momentum would go to her and I didn’t think Spanish Springs would be looking for her to get the ball. Everybody thinks Tyler is getting it.”
Heather Tauchen hauled in the rebound and handed the ball off to Hannah Woytek, who hit both free throws after getting fouled to put the Cougs up 3 with 1.6 seconds and effectively end the game.
Woytek finished with nine points in the win. Katrina Prendergast threw in 13.
The Cougars led the majority of the way but never led by more than five – six different times.
The Raiders trailed 16-11 after one quarter before taking its biggest lead of the night, 22-19, on the strength of its full-court press.
“They’re a pressing team. That’s what they do. They do that zone press a lot,” Cardenas said. “They obviously don’t do it as much without Gabby (Williams) but they did and it we were ready for it, but we were still a little careless with the basketball.”
The Cougars finished the first half on a 9-3 run and took a 28-25 lead at the break. Reed grabbed a brief one-point lead in the third before taking a 40-37 deficit into the final period.
Williams, a UConn commit, was on the bench Friday night after returning from Connecticut, where she had season-ending surgery on her ACL last Thursday. It was Williams second surgery on the knee in as many seasons.
Reed was also with post Tina Vernon for the second straight game. Vernon is suffering the effects of an injury suffered in PE class last month and had a MRI Thursday. She will receive the results Saturday.
“I think we want it now (after the loss),” Ramirez said. “Sometimes you have to make it hurt a little bit… because the first round of the playoffs, you lose and you’re done… Can you get a positive out of out losing? Yeah.”
Cardenas said the win is a bonus going into the playoffs but there isn’t time to reminisce on the program’s first win at Reed.
“We want to get momentum going into the playoffs… I told the girls to enjoy it tonight and then tomorrow at 11:30 (a.m.) we start getting ready for Douglas.”
The Cougars open the North Region tournament on the road Tuesday at Douglas while the Raiders play host to Damonte Ranch.
Spanish Springs fell to the Tigers 47-20, at Douglas, in its first game of the season. Reed bested Damonte 69-47 at home in their lone meeting of the year Feb. 4. Both quarterfinal games tip at 7 p.m.