Spain Park headed to 2nd straight Sweet 16

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – Spain Park’s turnaround has been evident under head coach Chris Laatsch, and the Jaguars took another step in their progression on Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Not only did they pull away from Gadsden City in the opening round of the area tournament for a dominant 75-57 victory, but the Jags improved to 24-6 to earn a spot in the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

That win total ties the school record for the second most all-time during a year when games haven’t been guaranteed due to COVID-19, meaning Spain Park has taken advantage of the opportunities they’ve had.

And despite losing four of six in the final two weeks of the season, the No. 4 Jaguars looked possibly the best they have all season in the opening-round win against the Titans.

Fresh off a 69-41 win against No. 5 Hoover entering the area tournament, Spain Park’s confidence was high and it showed throughout the game against Gadsden City.

The Jaguars found a rhythm early in the matchup, totaling 17 points in the first quarter and showing early balance from several scorers. Their defense also started impressively by giving up 10 points to help play a part in taking a seven-point lead at the end of the period.

Gadsden City, however, was playing for its season just like Spain Park was.

The Titans looked like a team that knew that in the second quarter with the sense of urgency they showed on both ends of the floor.

That led to Gadsden City outscoring the Jaguars 17-12 in the quarter to cut the deficit to two points at 29-27 heading to the halftime break.

But Spain Park also had a sense of urgency, and that was revamped during the break.

The Jags came out in the second half and looked like a team hungry to have a chance at getting back to the Sweet 16 for a run to avenge last year’s Elite-Eight loss.

Colin Turner was a big reason why thanks to a dominant second half that started with eight points in the third quarter.

That, combined with a 3-pointer from Blake Floyd and points from three others helped Spain Park score 18 points in the third quarter.

With the defense giving up just 10 points in the frame, Spain Park had stormed back in front by 12 going to the final quarter.

Despite the double-digit lead, however, the Jaguars decided not to leave any doubt by saving their best quarter for last.

They came out in the fourth quarter to score 28 points behind 19 made free throws.

That finished off a 30-36 performance from the line in the game for Spain Park and helped close out the 18-point win.

The win was a team effort for the Jags, who had five players score in double figures. Turner led all scorers with 19 points in the win, while Josh Harrington was just behind with 17 points after knocking down three 3-pointers.

Cam Crawford chipped in 12 points after going 8-9 from the free throw line, while J.R. Lambert and Blake Floyd added 11 and 10, respectively.

Spain Park will travel to Vestavia Hills on Saturday for the area tournament championship before playing int he Sweet 16 a week later.