Spain Park takes regular season area title with win over Chelsea

Published 11:16 pm Tuesday, January 23, 2024

By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Reporter

CHELSEA – The Spain Park Jaguars have played in many big games in past years. When they did it again on Tuesday, Jan. 23, they played like they had been there before, claiming the Class 7A, Area 6 regular season title for the first time since 2015.

With a four-point lead heading into the final quarter on play, the Jags stepped up on both sides of the floor to stay undefeated in the area with a 42-35 win over county rival Chelsea in a night that was memorable for both sides.

TJ Lamar stepped up in a big way for Spain Park, dropping 15 points on a night where he scored in every quarter in order to help give his team a massive win.

The first quarter set the theme for the night as neither team broke the double-digit mark on the scoreboard in this defensive battle. No single player broke out either, as nobody scored more than one field goal in the opening minutes. The score was 9-6 heading into the second quarter.

This is where Lamar started to break loose with his physicality, as the senior forward drew multiple shooting fouls on the Hornets that set him up for scoring opportunities at the charity stripe. He scored five in the quarter to go along with a long ball from Quinn Davis.

On top of the slowly increasing offensive success, the defense from the Jags had Spain Park going into the half with a great amount of momentum, holding Chelsea to just four points in the second quarter. This put Chris Laatsch’s squad up seven at the break.

Spain Park came out of the locker room and kept the success going, but it would not come without a challenge.

Chelsea’s senior stars Jaxon Shuttlesworth and Avery Futch fought to make sure the Jags did not run away with a big win on their school’s court. The duo combined for 13 of the 14 points that the Hornets scored in the third quarter, which outscored what the team did in the first two quarters combined.

Spain Park kept its composure, as Lamar put up four more points of his own, while Joshua Helms and Chapman Blevins hit some crucial free throws to help give the Jags a 28-24 lead heading into the final period.

It was then that senior Korbin Long found his way onto the scoreboard, coming in clutch once again for his team in area play. Long scored all five of his points in the closing minutes, hitting three clutch free throws to help maintain and extend his team’s lead.

Lamar also finished his impressive night off with four more points in the fourth, slowly stuffing the stat sheet in the 42-35 victory.

The Jaguar defense held strong as well, limiting the Hornets to just nine points in the final quarter.

The regular season championship marks the first time in nine years that Spain Park will host the area tournament, giving the squad a big momentum booster heading into the postseason.

Chelsea’s Aiden Owens led all scorers with 18 points in the loss, while Futch put down 10 of his own. Futch officially secured his name in Chelsea history with his performance, becoming the fifth Hornet all-time to join the 1,000 point club.