Despite a loss to Huffman, Spain Park looks refreshed

Published 4:35 pm Friday, November 9, 2018

By ALEC ETHERDGE | Sports Editor

HOOVER – With former Helena head basketball coach Chris Laatsch taking over at Spain Park in the offseason, one thing quickly became evident, and that was this year’s Jaguars’ team will play with a different attitude on the floor throughout the 2018-19 basketball season.

It was easy to see that in an opening-night win against Cornerstone Schools of Alabama on Tuesday, Nov. 6, but became even more clear in a loss to Huffman in Spain Park’s first home game of the year on Thursday, Nov. 8.

In the loss, Spain Park never trailed by more than six points through the first three quarters, and never trailed by more than 10 in the game, while also holding several leads against a talented and athletic Huffman team.

Facing any sort of deficit the last two years, specifically last year, would have signaled the end for the Jags and led to a double-digit loss on almost every occasion.

But against the Vikings, something looked different. A team that was more fundamentally sound throughout, giving 100-percent effort from start to finish, the Jaguars never gave up and ended up losing by just eight points, 59-51, to a team that is arguably more talented and athletic across the board.

It was a game, that because of that effort, was close throughout starting in the first quarter.

Huffman jumped on top early with a 4-0 run, but Austin Laatsch, the coach’s son, quickly made that a one-point game with his first made 3-pointer of the season for Spain Park.

Chip Culpepper, Blake Nord and Cam Crawford all added points in the quarter to help the Jags stay close throughout.

Their first lead came at 11-10 late in the quarter on a 3-pointer from Crawford, before Huffman quickly answered back before time expired with two more points of its own to take a 12-11 lead at the end of the first period.

That led to a back-and-forth second quarter with the Jags reclaiming the lead at 16-14 on another Laatsch 3-pointer, before the Vikings tied it again shortly after.

Spain Park grabbed the lead a couple more times in the quarter, the last of which came when Nord grabbed an offensive rebound and put back for a 24-23 advantage.

Huffman, however, ended the quarter on a 7-2 run, to retake the lead at halftime by a score of 30-26.

Coming out of the locker room, Huffman continued playing with a lot of pressure on both ends of the floor and eventually extended its lead to six points midway through the quarter, but Laatsch again came through.

The senior hit three 3-pointers in the period and eventually brought the Jags to within a point at 42-41 heading to the final quarter.

Spain Park’s run continued early in the fourth quarter when Crawford hit a layup to start the period, which gave the Jags a one-point lead at 43-42.

Huffman, however, was ready with another answer, and this time it led to the Vikings’ biggest run of the game.

They went on an 8-0 run to eventually claim a seven-point lead midway through the final period. That run was extended to 13-4, which gave Huffman its largest lead of the game at 55-45 late in the period.

Spain Park continued to battle and show its growth from a year ago cutting the deficit to eight a couple of times, but that’s as close as the Jags could get thanks to Huffman’s answers, which helped the Vikings claim a 59-51 victory.

Laatsch led the 1-1 Jaguars with 15 points on five 3-pointers, while Culpepper added 11 points. Crawford and Nord added nine and eight points, respectively.

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