Spain Park girls advance to fourth straight Elite Eight

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HANCEVILLE – Spain Park entered the 2019-20 basketball season with one goal on its mind—redeeming last year’s difficult Elite Eight loss to Hewitt-Trussville.

Now, the Jaguars are just one win away from accomplishing it after a dominant 64-29 win over Florence in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, Feb. 13, advanced them to the Elite Eight for the fourth consecutive year.

In two of the last three years, they’ve advanced to the Final Four, and now they’ll look to get back to pick up a second state championship in the last three years.

The Jaguars will look to continue taking advantage of star senior Sarah Ashlee Barker, who posted a double-double performance of 24 points and 11 rebounds in just 21 minutes of action. She also added three assists and two blocks in the win.

Early in the game, Florence held its own, which led to Spain Park only taking a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. Then, the Falcons cut it to three points in the first minute of the second quarter after a basket from Kendyl Hawkins.

But over the final seven minutes of the period, Florence scored just four more points, while Spain Park scored 20 to open up a dominant 36-17 lead at the halftime break.

That was just the beginning of the onslaught for the Jaguars, who turned the 20-4 run to end the half into a 19-0 third quarter to outscore the Falcons 39-4 in that span and take a 55-17 lead into the final quarter.

With the game in hand, Spain Park didn’t push matters in the final period, which led to Florence outscoring the Jags. But Spain Park’s effort in the first three quarters was more than enough for a 33-point victory.

The Jaguars shot 42.6 percent from the field after hitting 23 of their 54 field goals, while also draining seven 3-pointers. Spain Park’s defense played lights out, holding Florence to 11 made field goals in 49 attempts, while the Falcons went 0-12 from beyond the arc.

In addition to Barker’s 24 points, Mackenzie Culpepper added nine and Alanah Pooler posted eight. Stephanie Tooson, Avery Masdon, Katie Flannery, Culpepper and Pooler all posted five rebounds.

Spain Park will now take on area foe Vestavia Hills in the Elite Eight after beating the Rebels three times in the regular season. But the regular season means nothing, as last year, Hewitt-Trussville beat Spain Park in the Elite Eight after the Jags had won all four regular-season matchups.

That game will tip off at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.