Spain Park girls go 4-0 at own tournament
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
HOOVER – The Spain Park girls basketball team is doing its part to have a chance at repeating as state champions through a difficult early-season schedule and that continued Dec. 21-23 in their host tournament the Spain Park Lady Jag Classic.
Competing against some of the state’s best teams, the Jags continued to let their defense lift them to wins, including three by 10 points or less in the tournament to win four games in a span of three days against teams considered to be among the best in the state.
In the tournament, the Jags beat Guntersville, East Limestone, Chelsea and Opelika, beating East Limestone and Chelsea in the same day.
Guntersville ended up being the easiest win of the tournament for the Jags, picking up a 14-point, 51-37, win on their home floor to start the tournament off on the right foot.
That led into a difficult second game against Class 5A No. 6 East Limestone, who despite a difficult 4-5 start to the season, is one of the favorites in the 5A classification.
Spain Park was able to make plays down the stretch to win the tightly-contested game 57-51. The six-point victory marked a tie for the closest game of the season for the Jags after beating No. 8 Sparkman 56-50 earlier in the season.
That led into two defensive battles for the Jaguars, including one later that afternoon against the Chelsea Hornets.
Playing their second game of the day, the Jags didn’t have the same offensive success that they saw against East Limestone.
The defense, however, played one of its best games of the season against a 6A contender.
Spain Park held Chelsea to less than 10 points in every quarter of the game, which ultimately made the difference.
But early in the contest, the offense wasn’t able to take advantage.
Chelsea capitalized on that and took an early 9-7 lead in the opening quarter, but the Hornets never scored more than that the rest of the game, while the Jags slowly got warmed up.
In the second quarter, Spain Park’s defense clamped down even more, limiting the Hornets to six points. The Jags only scored eight, but that was enough to tie the game at 15-15 heading into the halftime break.
Spain Park head coach Mike Chase knew the defense was playing well enough to win, but the game was much closer than it should have been because the offense wasn’t taking advantage.
But halftime adjustments led to some changes, and in the third quarter, the Jaguars were able to play their best offensive quarter of the game by scoring 11 points.
After holding Chelsea to seven for the period, the Jags opened up a 26-22 lead heading to the final quarter.
Then, in the fourth, the Jags saved their best defensive effort for last. They gave up just four points, leaving no room for a comeback attempt, while the 10 points form the offense put away a 36-26 victory.
One day later, in the final round of the tournament, Spain Park once again came out slow on the offensive end, which started an up and down game.
The defense again had a solid performance, but it wasn’t enough to keep Opelika from taking a 7-6 lad at the end of one.
Spain Park, however, wasn’t going to wait as long to get the offensive going this time around. The Jags bounced back with 16 points in the second quarter, while they held the Bulldogs to seven points for the second quarter in a row.
That allowed the Jaguars to storm in front for a 22-14 lead at the break.
But in an inconsistent effort, Opelika clawed back in the third quarter by outscoring the Jags 9-7 to trim the deficit to six points going to the final quarter.
That’s when the real fireworks began. The Bulldogs finally found a rhythm from the field, but all of a sudden, Spain Park couldn’t be stopped offensively.
The Jags made baskets and key free throws down the stretch to post 18 points and close out the 47-37 victory.