Spain Park, Hoover girls shine in primetime title rematch

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

HOOVER – Claire Holt sat in an interview room after last year’s thrilling Sweet 16 win over Gadsden City and said how cool it was to see the fans coming to see her team rather than just trickling into the stands before the guys’ game starts.

On Friday, Feb. 2, Holt and her No. 2 Spain Park Jaguar teammates got an even more awe-inspiring moment when the guys game between Spain Park and Hoover was moved to 6 p.m. so the girls could square off on TV in a rematch of last year’s thrilling overtime state championship matchup not only in primetime, but in front of a packed out Hoover High School gym.

What nobody could see coming was an almost identical outcome as last year’s state championship as Sarah Ashlee Barker hit a layup with the final seconds ticking off the clock to send the thrilling game to overtime for the second consecutive matchup between the two.

With a more personal feel and the loudest high school basketball game you will ever here, this time felt just as much like the state championship if not more.

For the second consecutive matchup, however, No. 1 Hoover was able to end overtime on an 8-2 run to win by a final score of 58-53 to the appeasement of the Hoover side of the split crowd.

Spain Park was able to take the lead in overtime for the first time since the score was 13-11 early in the second quarter, but the Bucs were able to capitalize on opportunities, while the Jags’ leading scorer in Holt had fouled out with a little over a minute left in the overtime.

Spain Park, or more specifically Ahrielle Parks, came flying out of the gate to start the game, however. Parks started the game on a quick 4-0 run to give the Jags an early lead in the rematch.

But it didn’t take long for Hoover to wake up as they responded with a 7-0 run and eventually a 9-2 run to take a 9-6 lead.

Parks answered right back with a 3-pointer to tie the game and give her seven of the Jags’ first nine points in the contest. Each team hit one more jumper the remainder of the quarter to end the opening eight minutes in an 8-8 tie.

It had been a few minutes since Parks had scored, but the long TV timeout to think about it seemed to give her the momentum to get back to the basket.

She came out and gave the Jaguars a quick basket in the second period to give her nine of Spain Park’s first 13 points in the game.

Hoover took note and answered back with a 9-0 run to take a 20-13 lead as they were able to get to the free throw line and grab offensive rebounds, while the Jags struggled getting anything to drop and got no second chances at the basket.

They were finally able to hit back-to-back shots to end the quarter, the latter of which was a 3-pointer from Bailey Bowers, but Hoover was able to take a 22-18 lead into the half despite the late run by the Jaguars.

SPHS came out and eventually battled to within one point in the third quarter as they cut the lead to 27-28, but the Bucs answered in a big way.

Hoover went on to lead by as many as 10 points in the third quarter at 39-29 and continued that success into the final period of play by taking a 45-36 lead midway through the final quarter.

That’s when, almost identical to last year’s title game, Spain Park caught fire. The Jags hit three 3-pointers in a row, two from Barker and one from Holt, to all of a sudden cut the lead to just one point late.

Hoover ended up extending that advantage back to two points at 49-47 with 7.9 seconds left, but Barker, who had battled a bad cramp earlier in the quarter, wasn’t ready to let her team walk out of Hoover High School just yet.

Out of a timeout, she sliced down the lane, caught the inbound pass and laid it in to tie the game and send it to overtime as the final seconds ticked off the clock almost identical to the state championship game.

Unfortunately for the Jags, Hoover was able to get more bounces and breaks in the overtime to prevail as the winners.

Holt led three double-figure scorers for the Jaguars, now 25-6 overall, with 22 points, while Parks and Barker added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

Joia Maddox led Hoover with 11 points, while Skyla Knight and Angela Grant each added 10 points apiece for the Bucs.