Spain Park fends off Pelham in tight county battle of 16-win teams

Published 8:17 am Thursday, January 6, 2022

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

HOOVER – Thanks to free throw shooting down the stretch, the Spain Park Jaguars were able to capitalize on a fast start against the Pelham Panthers on Wednesday, Jan. 5 by picking up a tight victory in the county battle.

The Jaguars earned five trips to the line in the final four minutes of the game, making seven of their 10 free throws to stave off a Pelham comeback for a 44-40 win.

The Panthers, who trailed by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, battled back to within four points early in the final quarter.

Spain Park’s Colin Turner then went to the free throw line on three consecutive offensive possessions for the Jaguars, going 1-2 each trip to put the Jags back on top by seven.

Pelham came right back to get within three points for the first time since early in the first quarter, but then the Jaguars responded with four consecutive made free throws from Chase James and Sam Wright to push it back to seven before a late three from the Panthers created the final margin of four points.

The Jags went 7-10 from the free throw line in the final quarter, while the Panthers went 2-6, which made the difference late.

In a defensive battle early, it was Spain Park who was able to take advantage of the slightest of opportunities.

The Jaguars utilized a 2-3 zone defensively to keep Pelham’s offense at bay, in particular to keep Michael “MJ” Jones from driving to the basket, which limited the Panthers to one jumper from Alex Deaver in the opening quarter.

Spain Park was able to get four from Colin Turner in the period as well as a 3-pointer from Josh Harrington and a jumper from Jared Smith to claim an early 9-2 advantage.

Jones scored the first two points of the second half on two free throws, but the Jaguars answered with seven straight to extend the lead to 16-4 following a 3-pointer from Hunter Herritt.

Pelham responded with a 5-1 run all from Jones to make it 17-9, but Josh Harrington squashed that momentum going into the half with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to make it 20-9 at the break.

The deficit grew on the first basket of the second half, but Jones responded from a slow first half with a much better performance for the Panthers in the second half.

Thanks to adjustments at the break, he scored eight quick points in the first few minutes of the third quarter to bring Pelham to within seven at 24-17.

In a game that had become more back-and-forth from both offenses after a defensive first half, Spain Park regained a 12-point lead at 31-19 before both traded baskets on the way to a 33-25 game going to the final quarter.

Pelham again fell behind by 12 off a quick 4-0 run from the Jaguars to start the final quarter, but the Panthers responded with back-to-back 3-pointers from Jones and Corey Perkins before a steal and pass ahead to Jones led to a layup, cutting the Spain Park lead to 37-33.

The Panthers had upped the pressure with a full-court press, which led to the Jags struggling to protect the ball.

That’s when Turner earned his three consecutive trips to the line to put Spain Park back up by seven.

Kamari Hollis answered with back-to-back 1-2 trips to the line himself, while a fast break after led to a dunk from Jordan Holloway and a 40-37 game with 52.6 seconds left.

That’s when Chase James earned a trip to the line, making both of his free throws. Then, Sam Wright drew a foul on Jones, forcing Pelham’s leading scorer out of the game.

Wright went on to make both of his free throws for a 44-37 lead.

That became a big stretch as the Panthers hit a 3-pointer with 8.2 seconds left to create the final score.

Spain Park was led by Turner with 10 points in the win, while Harrington, Wright and Herritt each had eight points in the win.

Jones finished his night with 22 points to pave the way for the Panthers in their comeback effort, while the team was balanced in a hard-fought defensive effort.