Free throws lift Spain Park past Oak Mountain in rivalry game

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

NORTH SHELBY – Standing at the free throw line with chants of “Baby yoda” echoing across the gym from the Oak Mountain student section behind him, Spain Park guard Josh Harrington silenced the arena by sinking both free throw attempts to put Spain Park up 51-48 with 19.6 left in a rivalry matchup on Thursday, Dec. 12.

Following those two free throws, J.R. Lambert stepped to the line a few seconds later and made the first of his two free throws to make it a two-possession game. Following a miss on the second, Oak Mountain sprinted up the floor looking to somehow find a miracle in the final five seconds, but when a 3-pointer bounced off the back of the iron, time expired and Spain Park celebrated a 52-48 win.

The win marked the second of the week over a county foe as the Jags beat No. 7 Thompson two days earlier and are now 8-5 overall this season, while the Eagles are now 6-4 on the season.

Early in the game, Spain Park was able to take a quick lead behind continued strong play from Cam Crawford, who had one of his best games of the season against the Warriors.

Crawford drained two 3-pointers and four total field goals in the half to account for 10 points, while Harrington added a 3-pointer as well to give the Jags 13 first-quarter points.

Defensively, they were able to limit a dangerous Oak Mountain offense to just seven points, five of which came from Noah Young.

The second quarter was much more evenly matched. The Jaguars posted nine points, led by Austin Hutcheson’s five in the quarter, while the Eagles were able to match those nine points thanks to 3-pointers from Wilder Evers and Zane Nelson, as well as a 3-4 mark at the free throw line from Noah Young. Young finished the first half with eight points on 5-6 shooting from the free throw line.

But Spain Park was able to do enough to take a six-point advantage into the halftime break.

Coming out of the half, Oak Mountain made the necessary adjustments to find some success on the offensive end and it paid off. The Eagles were able to cut into the deficit thanks to a strong quarter from Evers, who knocked down two 3-pointers and a field goal for eight points.

In addition to that, Nelson hit both of his free throws, while Will Shaver had two field goals in the post to help Oak Mountain total 14 points in the period.

Spain Park, however, was still able to maintain its lead behind an impressive quarter from Harrington, who drained two of his four 3-pointers in the game and made both of his free throws to help the Jags post 12 points in the quarter.

Trailing 34-30 heading to the final quarter of play, the Eagles had done enough to give themselves a shot down the stretch, and it paid off early in the period, as they pulled in front for a 35-34 lead with 6:14 left in the game.

For the rest of the game, the two were neck-and-neck with Oak Mountain leading 41-39 with 3:20 left and then taking a 44-41 lead with 1:43 left to play.

From that point, however, Spain Park was able to find its comfort zone at the free throw line.

Oak Mountain still led by one point in the final 30 seconds, but the Jags used clutch play down the stretch, making 11-14 from the line in the final quarter.

Crawford was big again with a clutch 10 points in the final quarter, while Harrington made those two big free throws late and also had a massive 3-pointer in the period to complete his night.

While both teams posted an impressive 18 points in the quarter, the Jags were able to overcome giving up the lead with their impressive late play to pull off the tightly-contested 52-48 victory.

Nelson finished the final quarter with eight points to post 13 for Oak Mountain, while Evan Smith also had a strong fourth with six points. Evers was the Eagles’ leading scorer with 15 points on the night.

Spain Park was led by Crawford for the second consecutive game with 22 points, while Harrington added 16 with both players coming up big in the clutch.