Jaguars claim long-awaited title
By WESLEY HALLMAN / Sports Editor
HOOVER — The Spain Park High School boys’ basketball team has built a strong tradition in the school’s short history.
The Jaguars have claimed several championships, including an Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A Northeast Region title in 2007, and has made a trip to the Class 6A Final Four.
Despite its success on the court, Spain Park has never been crowned the champion of its own in-season tournament, the Jaguar Classic.
The Jaguars added to their list of accomplishments Dec. 22 by defeating Christian Brothers High School of Memphis, Tenn., 54-44 in the championship game of the 2011 Jaguar Classic.
First-year coach Neal Barker said it was only a matter of time before the streak ended.
“We’re just building on the success Coach (Brian) Moon had here,” Barker said. “It means a lot to me.”
Blake Dudchock led the Jaguars (10-5) with a game-high 15 points in the victory. Dudchock also grabbed eight rebounds in the win.
Robby Prater chipped in 13 points. Prater knocked down 8-of-9 free throws, including 6-of-6 in the final two minutes to ice the victory.
Eric Washington and Austin Jones contributed 10 points each. Rembert Martin chipped in four points. Sean Taylor finished with two points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals.
Dudchock scored a basket to give the Jaguars their largest lead in the first quarter, 8-4, with 1:57 remaining in the period.
Spain Park opened the second quarter with a 8-0 run, which included three consecutive jumpers by Jones and a pair of free throws by Prater, to take a 16-11 lead with 3:38 left in the first half.
However, Christian Brothers responded with a 7-0 run of its own to take an 18-16 lead with 2:03 left in the second period. Dudchock’s basket with 1:46 remaining tied the game at 18-18 heading into the locker room at halftime.
The Jaguars opened the third quarter with a 7-0 run, capped by Prater’s 3-pointer from the top of the key, to take a 25-18 lead two minutes into the period.
Christian Brothers responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game at 25-25. The Purple Wave carried a two-point lead, 32-30, into the fourth quarter.
Spain Park went on a 8-0 late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Martin converted the three-point play and Prater knocked down two free throws to cap the run, which gave the Jaguars a 44-34 lead with 1:50 remaining.
The Jaguars knocked down 6-of-8 free throws in the final 1:12 to clinch the victory.
Prater said the tournament championship gives the Jaguars plenty of confidence entering Class 6A, Area 12 play next month.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Prater said. “It’s the hardest field we’ve ever had.”