Jags edge Spartans in area title game
Published 10:16 pm Saturday, February 13, 2016
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
HOOVER – After splitting the regular season series 1-1, Spain Park hosted Mountain Brook in the 7A Area 6 tournament championship on Feb. 13. Both teams had won the regular season game that they hosted, and Mountain Brook had most recently beaten Spain Park by a final of 66-47. On this night however, Spain Park never trailed, winning by as much as 12 points before eventually pulling out the area title via a 77-74 final.
“Having home court advantage helps so much,” Spain Park head coach Donnie Quinn said after the big win. “Both gyms are incredibly difficult to play in. Having the opportunity to host really helped us tonight.”
The Jaguars started off strong, as Austin Wiley flushed home the game’s first two points and Jameson Floyd hit a deep three to take an early 5-0 lead. Mountain Brook tied the game three times in the first quarter at 5-5, 10-10 and 17-17, but never could pull ahead, and after falling behind 25-19 at the end of the first quarter, never pulled even again.
Spain Park went to Wiley early and often. The massive junior routinely had Mountain Brook defenders draped over his shoulders, but had 12 first quarter points and handled the defensive pressure well. But where Wiley’s presence was felt the most was on the defensive end. Three early blocks for the big man left the Spartans wary to enter the paint, and when they did routinely looked skittish to offer up an attempt with Wiley lurking. Even if Wiley wasn’t blocking shots, he was altering them with his mere presence.
Jack Kline of Mountain Brook was one of the lone bright spots for the Spartans in the first half. The senior UAH commit had 14 points in the first half and seemed to be the only Spartan capable of creating anything on offense. Trendon Watford also added 11 first half points for the Spartans, but Spain Park held a 45-38 lead at the break.
Jamal Johnson came out firing in the third for Spain Park, hitting a three to open the quarter and push the lead back to 10. He had 11 points in the quarter and managed the offense effectively to a 10-point, 67-57 lead entering the final period.
Watford did not have a terrific first three quarters for Mountain Brook. The highly touted freshman drew his fourth foul with just over two minutes to go in the third quarter and in general missed shots that have come to be expected of the hyper-talented youngster. However, in the fourth quarter Watford began to assert himself on offense. A dunk to start the quarter was followed by a pair of threes, the second of which pulled Mountain Brook back to within a point at 75-74 with less than 30 seconds to play. However, Wiley hit two free throws on the other end, and the Mountain Brook three to tie as time expired drew iron, but did not fall, as Spain Park won 77-74.
Wiley finished with 25 points, 16 boards and five blocks while Johnson finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to lead Spain Park.
The Jaguars will play Grissom on Thursday at 1:30 at Jacksonville State in the first round of the regional tournament.