Spain Park remains in hunt for area title

Something had to give.

Spain Park High School and Oak Mountain High School came into a head-to-head meeting Jan. 15 with each team playing their best basketball of the season.

An Oak Mountain win would seal the Class 6A, Area 10 championship. A Spain Park win would put the Jaguars in the driver’s seat for the area title.

Spain Park wasn’t ready to give up its championship dreams. The Jaguars jumped out to an early lead and raced to a 49-39 win over the Eagles to remain in the hunt for the Class 6A, Area 10 title.

The Jaguars utilized size in the post in the first half and took advantage of open shots from the perimeter in the second half to extend their current winning streak to 10 games.

Spain Park coach Brian Moon credited a starting lineup chock-full of experience for the Jaguars’ success as the season winds down.

“We’re playing well right now,” said Moon, who has five senior starters. “Our seniors are playing like seniors.”

Senior guard Reid Cunningham led the Jaguars (18-6, 6-1 in Class 6A, Area 10) with 14 points, including two 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter to keep the Eagles from making a comeback. Senior guard Edgar Dominguez and senior forward Josh Drum added 10 points each. Senior forward Matthew Bowerman chipped in eight points and senior guard Jake Lee contributed four points.

Senior forward Cary Baxter led Oak Mountain (15-5, 5-1 in Class 6A, Area 10), which entered the contest having won 13 of its last 15 games, with 22 points. Chris Pegg added seven points.

Moon said having five players that can each handle the ball on the court at the same time gave his Jaguars an upper hand against Oak Mountain’s pressure defense.

“We feel like we’ve got five guys that can play on the perimeter,” Moon said. “They’ve got some confidence as the season comes down to an end.”

Cunningham agreed with Moon’s assessment.

“We face a lot of pressure and it’s huge having three guards that can handle the ball really well,” Cunningham said. “We’re peaking right now. We’re playing our best basketball.”

Drum scored two baskets as Spain Park jumped out to an early 4-0 lead before Baxter sparked a 7-2 run by Oak Mountain with two baskets and a free throw to help the Eagles take a 7-6 lead.

Moon responded to the run by calling a timeout and the Jaguars took over midway through the first quarter. Bowerman ended the first quarter with back-to-back baskets and contributed six total points as Spain Park went on a 11-0 run at the end of the opening period and the early part of the second quarter. Cunningham scored seven points down the stretch as the Jaguars outscored Oak Mountain 19-8 after the first-quarter timeout to take a 25-15 lead at halftime.

Pegg nailed a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to cut the Spain Park lead to 33-27. Cunningham fired two 3-pointers from the left corner and Drum added a layup as the Jaguars went on an 8-0 run early in the fourth quarter to take their largest lead of the game at 41-27.

Baxter responded with a personal 5-0 run with a layup and a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 41-32, but the Eagles couldn’t cut into the lead as Spain Park hit seven free throws down the stretch to seal the win.

Oak Mountain coach Chris Love said his players didn’t match the intensity of the Spain Park players.

“Reid Cunningham just knocked down some big, big shots,” Love said. “They out-toughed us.”

Despite the setback, Love said his players can’t lose their focus. The Eagles still have a shot at the Area 10 championship game with two area games left.

“We’ve still got a chance to win it,” Love said. “It’s just one game. We’ve still got a lot to play for. We’ve got everything ahead of us.”

GIRLS

Oak Mountain 39, Spain Park 30

Senior forward Marisa Tomaszewski led Oak Mountain (19-5, 4-2 in Class 6A, Area 10) with 12 points and seven rebounds. Julia Ferguson added 10 points.

Kelsie Williams led Spain Park (7-17, 0-7 in Class 6A, Area 10) with 18 points. Jessica Freeman had a game-high nine rebounds.