Spain Park downs Hewitt-Trussville to earn spot at regionals

Published 7:40 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2023

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

NORTH SHELBY – For the fourth year in a row, the Spain Park Jaguars will be one of the final 16 teams in the 7A classification after earning a thrilling win against Hewitt-Trussville in the opening round of the area tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 8.

The Jags led throughout the game, but had to fend off late charges from the Huskies to pick up a 46-36 win.

Spain Park, however, made 10 of 11 from the free throw line in the final quarter to answer every Hewitt run and close out the win. The victory also gave the Jags redemption for a two-point loss to the Huskies two weeks earlier that prevented them from hosting the area tournament.

With a sour taste in their mouth from the previous outing, the Jags came out and started strong in the first half.

Spain Park picked up nine points in the opening quarter between scoring from Sam Wright, Jared Smith and Chase James.

Hewitt, however, also got off to a strong start and not only matched the Jags but capitalized on two made shots from beyond the arc to take an early 10-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Struggling on the defensive end early, Spain Park quickly shifted focus in the second quarter and held the Huskies in check.

The Jags cut Hewitt’s production in half, allowing one made 3-pointer and only one other field goal.

Meanwhile, Zach Gray found a rhythm with seven points for the Jaguars, while Wright added four more and Hunter Herritt a field goal. With the shift in momentum, Spain Park was able to outscore the Huskies by eight in the quarter to take a 22-15 lead into the half.

With the season on the line, neither team went down without a fight from there, which led to a compelling second half.

In the third quarter, the two teams traded baskets each trip up the floor.

But each time Hewitt got close, Spain Park had an answer.

The two teams traded 3-pointers on three of the first four possessions, which ultimately led to the Huskies eventually getting to within five points.

Gray, however, hit a big three at the opportune time to extend the lead back to eight.

Again, Hewitt cut it to six twice from there, but the Jags responded with a physical spin move in the post from Wright that ended with a layup through contact to give Spain Park a 36-28 lead through three.

The Huskies, however had plenty of fight left in them.

They cut the deficit to four points early in the final quarter, and stayed within striking distance much of the period.

Eventually, the Huskies trimmed the deficit to 40-36 with 1:05 to play, but free throw shooting was key from there.

As part of a 10-11 quarter, the Jags got four straight from Gray and two from James to quickly put the game out of reach over the final minute for the 10-point win.

Spain Park hit 17 of 19 free throws in the win, while Gray led the team with 18 points. James chipped in 12 and Wright added 10.