GARRETT VALENZUELA / SPECIAL TO THE SUN
Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014 | 7:30 p.m.
RENO — As soon as Chris Nelson’s 3-point attempt left his hands, Canyon Springs High basketball coach Freddie Banks looked toward his bench to make a substitution.
But Nelson’s shot, the Pioneers lone 3-point attempt in the second half of today’s state semifinals against Spanish Springs, bounced off the front of the rim and rattled down for three points.
Nelson was safe. So was Canyon Springs.
After scoring just 17 first-half points to trail by 10 at halftime, Canyon Springs overwhelmed Spanish Springs in the second half for a 66-51 victory in advancing to Friday’s state championship game.
Nelson’s triple was part of a 26-point third quarter, when Canyon Springs opened on a 10-0 scoring run to even the score just three minutes into the third. Still, it wasn’t by design.
“I told them (at halftime): No more 3-pointers. We are 0 for 15. Anybody shoot a 3 is coming out,” Banks said. “So we shot one and made it. He’s lucky he made it because he was coming out of the game.”
What a difference a half makes.
In the first half, just about everything went wrong for Canyon Springs — turnovers, fouls and poor perimeter defense, to name a few. What was more troublesome was their inability to attack the Spanish Springs zone defense.
Instead of getting out in transition, they were caught in the half court offense, heaving up 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
The second half was almost immediately different. Canyon Springs, which averages 80 points per game and last week scored 106 and 99 points in playoff wins, did what it does best: They ran.
Game over. Spanish Springs, like most opponents Canyon Springs (25-4) has played this year, was overwhelmed.
By the time the end of the third quarter came, the Spanish Springs players were gasping for air, being outscored 26-11.
“Coach told us, ‘Attack, attack,’ and we did. It worked,” said Shaquile Carr, Canyon Springs’ senior team leader.
Canyon Springs was just getting started. The fourth quarter included more Canyon Springs points in transition, including an alley-oop from Shaquile Carr to Gerad Davis for a dunk to cap the victory. It was two of Davis’ 14 points in a dominating second half.
“They weren’t slowing us down,” said Davis, who scored a game-high 23 points. “We were getting faster, and they started slowing down and getting tired. We weren’t breathing hard and didn’t have hesitation.”
Carr finished with 17 points, Jordan Davis scored 12 and Nelson scored eight — Banks, however, wouldn’t have complained if his senior guard scored just five. Anything to stop a repeat performance of that awful first half.
“We went into halftime with 17 points. That’s the worst half we have ever played,” Banks said.