Photo by Ted Melton.
Spain Park Basketball 2014
Spain Park's Victoria Baldwin goes up for a 3-pointer.
What’s not to love about the Spain Park Lady Jaguars basketball team?
A veteran coach in Michael Chase, entering his sixth season at Spain Park, who’s been to the BJCC before as a head coach with Clay-Chalkville. An offensive style that many teams have a hard time matching up with. Five starters returning from a team that won a school-record 26 games and several youngsters good enough to press for playing time if any of those starters have assumed they have a job won.
And a basketball team that should still be hungry because those 26 wins only got them to the regional finals and not back to Birmingham for the Final 48. This year comes the added goal of participating in the first State Finals and vying for the first Class 7A title.
“We struggled some last year, but once the kids got settled into new roles, we were really playing our best basketball at the end of the year,” Chase said. “I’m pretty excited to see what we can do. I want to say we have high expectations. But really the regular-season record doesn’t matter to me – it’s where you finish in the playoffs.”
Chase said the tough regular season schedule will prepare his girls for the regionals, saying he believes his team will have seen as good of a point guard or shooting guard or post player as any they’ll see at state.
“We’ll be really tested in the regular season.”
After two seasons in an area that lumped Spain Park in the southern part of the state, the Lady Jags are in a more familiar jungle with Mountain Brook, Vestavia Hills and Hewitt-Trussville after reclassification and realignment.
Returning starters include 5-foot-10 senior guard Victoria Baldwin, who averaged 18.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.4 assists per game.
Also back are 5-11 senior forward Jemaiya Lee, 5-11 junior forward Elizabeth Philpot, 5-10 post Keyasha Gordon and 5-4 senior guard Amanda Gaston. Sophomore guard Maggie Baldwin played in 27 games as a freshman, and there are a host of other youngsters pressing for time.
“Our strengths are we’re really big – all three of our post players are about 6-foot, and long; our point guard is 5’10. And the way we shoot the 3 gives teams match-up problems. Our style of play is hard to guard.”
Some call it the Horns offense, or A-set, or something else, which starts with a point guard out front, two high post and two wings in the corners. Chase’s teams have always utilized the 3-point shot, but when he’s had slashers and inside scorers, he’s used them to his advantage, too. Opposing players, especially at the high school level, can be devastated when they feel they’ve got the inside shut down only to see the ball kicked out to a wing or post player who knocks down a 3.
However, X’s and O’s don’t take care of everything it takes to have a successful season. Chase emphasized that.
“The biggest thing is how well the kids will handle the grind and the adversity that comes with having high expectations from the students, the parents, the other teams, everybody,” he said. “Absolutely our goal is to get to Birmingham. We’ve worked hard in summer and fall, had no major setbacks. If our group can handle it, we have enough talent and basketball skill to have a really successful season.”