It's been five years since the Spanish Springs girls basketball team last made it to the semifinals of the Northern 4A regional. On Wednesday, that drought ended as the Cougars held off Carson, 53-45, in the opening round of what is now the Division I North regional.
The game wasn't without drama as Spanish Springs and Carson exchanged leads throughout. Carson took a one-point lead heading into the fourth after senior forward Elena Thurman's 3-point shot beat the third-quarter buzzer.
With a close game and Spanish Springs trailing by one heading into the final quarter, last year's playoff loss to Carson was running through Spanish Springs coach Christine Eckles' mind.
"I'm thinking, 'Really? We're going to do this again?'" Eckles said.
The Cougars didn't let that happen. The team found defensive stops and easy baskets in the last few minutes, ending the game on a 9-3 run.
"In the end, it was about going back to defend, rebound and take care of the ball," Eckles said. "Those last four minutes, we did a really good job of shutting them down."
The breaking point came in the final minutes when Carson had a chance to tie the game at the line. Senators junior guard Savannah Smith missed the first of a one-and-one, and Cougars junior Myrissa Prince caught an outlet pass for an easy layup to give the Cougars a four-point lead. Two possessions later, Prince pushed the lead to six by getting behind the defense again for a layup. Carson wouldn't threaten after that.
"We didn't communicate," Carson coach Nathan Tolbert said. "They got three quick baskets and that was it. Just a couple mistakes here and there, and the thing goes the other way. We played the whole way and made them earn it."
Spanish Springs was led by senior center Laneesha Terrance's 22 points. In a game where Spanish Springs shooters struggled, Terrance came up big with her post play and offensive rebounding.
"We wanted to go to her," Eckles said. "That was a lot of our game plan. We were hoping we'd be able to go inside to her, and she just delivered. She kind of carried us."
The team postponed Eckles' retirement for at least one more game and also set a school record by winning 22 games this season.
Spanish Springs will now return to Carson City on Friday to play Reno High in the semifinals.
The Cougars played Reno twice this season and lost both games by 17 and 19 points.