Spain Park advances to Elite Eight with 14-point win

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HANCEVILLE – The last two years, the Spain Park basketball team had won a combined 12 games with 43 losses, but on Thursday, Feb. 13, the Jaguars put all of that behind them when they took down the Austin Black Bears to advance to the Elite Eight.

With their dominant 60-46 win, that featured a 20-7 fourth quarter, the Jaguars picked up their 20th win of the season. But most remarkable of all, it marks just the second year under head coach Chris Laatsch.

While the team struggled buying into a new coach last year, they have taken major strides in that category this season and it led to possibly their best team effort in years at the most opportune time.

The Jags got points from eight different players, while Cam Crawford, J.R. Lambert, Robert Johnson and Colin Turner all finished with 10 points in the game.

Early on in the game, Austin jumped out to a six-point lead at 11-5 in the first three minutes. The Black Bears held that lead throughout the quarter, but a late layup from Johnson with 46 seconds to play cut it down to three points at 16-13 heading to the second quarter.

Austin again jumped up by five on a quick make to start the second period, but from that point, the Jags came back with an 8-2 run to take the lead at 21-20 midway through the frame.

The Black Bears jumped back in front at 22-21, but from there, Spain Park extended its run to 16-6 run to take a 29-22 lead. Austin, however, fought back to close the quarter on a 5-0 run and make the halftime score 29-27 in favor of the Jags.

Spain Park held the lead for the majority of the third quarter, but Austin made another strong 7-0 run to regain the lead at 39-37.

The Jaguars, however, responded with an and-1 from Crawford to close the quarter that put them back on top 40-39—this time for good.

Knowing what they were on the brink of, and back in front, the Jags came out with their best effort of possibly any quarter this season, starting the period on a 14-0 run to take a commanding 53-39 lead.

Between the end of the third and the first 6:30 of the fourth, Spain Park outscored Austin 20-2 to take a 55-41 lead, before closing out the 60-46 win.

Crawford finished the game with a double-double featuring 15 points and 10 rebounds. Lambert posted 11 points, while Johnson and Turner each finished with 10.

Johnson, Crawford and Lambert were a combined 16-20 from the free throw line, while the Jags went 17-25 as a team.

Spain Park will play either Florence or Mountain Brook in the Elite Eight looking to punch a ticket to the Final Four.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.