The Spanish Springs girls basketball team is in the camp of causing it.
The Cougars walked away with a 43-40 upset win at Douglas Tuesday night in the DI North quarterfinals, 11 weeks after getting thumped 47-20 in the same gym in the season opener (Dec. 4).
Spanish Springs is the High Desert League No. 3 seed while Douglas was the No. 2 finisher in the Sierra League. The postseason win was just the third in the Cougar girls basketball program’s history.
“It’s unexplainable right now,” senior point guard Hannah Woytek said. “Because we weren’t even supposed to make it to the playoffs this year – we were underestimated.”
Not ready to see her high school career come to a close Tuesday night, Woytek carried her team with 22 points – 15 in the second half. With the game tied at 39 with 1:53 left, she broke free on an in-bounds pass from under the Douglas’ hoop and dropped in what proved to be the game-winning basket.
The fast-break bucket put the Cougars in front for good after Douglas’ Jessie Jim hit a 3 to tie the game with 2:33 remaining. The trey capped a mini 5-0 run for the Tigers after Spanish Springs grabbed its biggest lead of the night, 39-34, with 4:09 left. Jim led Douglas with 15 points.
Despite the significance of her transition layup, it was not the biggest play of her night. Trailing 31-28 with 6:51 left, Woytek drained a 3-pointer in front of her own bench to tie the game. She was fouled on the play as first-year coach Art Cardenas helped her up.
Instead of shooting the free throw to possibly put the Cougs up one, she in-bounded the ball under the hoop after an away-from-the-ball foul was called on Douglas with the ball in the air. Once she in-bounded the ball, she stepped into the corner and drilled a 16-foot jumper just inside the 3-point line.
Cardenas, who won his first playoff game at the helm, said it was the turning point of the night.
“I was trying to run as much stuff for her (Woytek) as possible,” Cardnas said. “We got a double screen for her up top to get her open and it worked, she was attacking the basket. Then she started hitting. We got momentum going our way.”
Adrianna Pennington hit a layup with 1:01 left to stretch the Cougs’ narrow advantage to 43-40 before keeping Douglas out of the hoop the rest of the way.
Before the late-game drama, Douglas’ Leonna Mortimer (nine points) put back a missed shot to push the hosts in front 26-21 with 1:32 left in the third period. Mariah Vargas hit her lone 3 of the night 30 seconds later to draw the Cougars within two. Douglas held a 29-26 edge after three quarters.
Spanish Springs outscored Douglas 34-27 in the scoring frenzy of a second half compared to the first 16 minutes that left Douglas in front just 13-9.
“We didn’t come out. We didn’t shoot the ball well,” Cardenas said. “I think we missed our first five or six shots, even a couple layups. I told the girls (at the half) to calm, settle down and let it go like they usually do, and they did.
“I told them it’s a four-point ball game. We are right where we want to be.”
Woytek nailed a trey on the Cougars' first possession of the second half, which proved to be an offensive omen for Spanish Springs.
“I think we were in it the whole time,” Woytek said. “We were down by four going into halftime. Obviously shots weren’t falling and in the second half they did. We are a better second-half team anyway.”
Douglas held Spanish Springs off the board in the first quarter until Heather Tauchen got a fast-break layup to fall with 1:02 left in the initial quarter. The Tigers led 6-2 after the first eight minutes before both teams scored seven points in the second quarter to account for the 13-9 halftime score.
The good news for Spanish Springs – outside of the road playoff win – is it returns to its home gym for the North semifinals just one win from a berth into the state tournament. SSHS is hosting the boys and girls DI North semifinals/championship game and the state tournament is played at Lawlor Events Center this year so the North gets two state berths.
The sobering news for the Cougs: They now play Reno – widely regarded as the best team in the state. Spanish Springs lost to the Huskies by a combined 90 points in both games this season.
The Purple would certainly like to continue the change highlighted by Tuesday’s win.
The first of two North semifinals tips at 5:30 p.m. at Spanish Springs on Thursday.