Photo by Ted Melton
Spain Park Basketball
Austin Wiley is shown in the regional semifinal game on Feb. 18, 2016.
Spain Park is going to Birmingham.
The Jags survived a pair of potential game-tying three-point shots from Gadsden City in the final minute and won the Class 7A Northeast Regional, 70-61, on Tuesday afternoon in Pete Mathews Coliseum at Jacksonville State University.
“That was a tough game,” Spain Park head coach Donnie Quinn said to sum up the contest succinctly. “Physical, fast, up and down, teams shooting the ball, hard to guard people…Really good game. Proud of both teams. Glad to be a part of it.”
Shond Kidd-McKinney – Gadsden City’s hero in its win over Mountain Brook in the Regional Semifinal – missed a three long, but Deonte Jones chased the ball down and threw it over his head to an open Kalin Johnson, who also missed.
Spain Park pulled down the rebound, and made its last seven free throws to secure the win.
“We just ran into a team that was better than us today,” Gadsden City coach Reginald Huff said. “We had some shots that just didn’t fall. We had to make shots to beat this team.”
Huff, donned in a slick red suit, was proud of the way his team performed, and lauded the efforts of Spain Park’s standouts: Jamal Johnson, Austin Wiley, and Justin Brown.
“Those guys are awesome. They are great high school players. I expect them to be very successful in the college arena, in two years. We’ve got to see (Wiley and Johnson) again next year,” Huff said.
Brown put the final stamp on the game, with a dunk while being fouled in the final seconds.
Wiley was asked how much he liked the slam. He said, “A lot. It was nice. ESPN Top 10.”
Brown was the leading scorer in the contest with 25 points. He also added six rebounds, shot 8-of-10 from the field, and made all seven of his free throw attempts.
“Justin, to his credit, didn’t play as well as he wanted the last game,” Quinn said. “It was important for him to come out and prove what he is capable of.”
Wiley was another big performer for the Jags, scoring 19 points, securing 15 rebounds, and blocking five shots. Four of those blocks came in the final quarter, including two straight after Gadsden City went with a five-guard lineup in an attempt to pull Wiley away from under the goal.
“They think my feet are slow and they are trying to take advantage of a mismatch. I try to move my feet and just stay in front of them,” he said.
Spain Park (23-9) scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter to take a six-point lead in the game. Gadsden City (24-8) battled back, cutting the lead to three points three times.
The Titans led the game, 51-50, after three quarters, as Kalin Johnson punctuated a 6-0 run for Gadsden City with an emphatic fast break dunk.
Freshman guard Parker Boswell helped the Jags open up the five-point lead before that run to end the third period, as he scored six points in the quarter and showed great quickness on a head fake and drive to the basket.
“Probably the last five or six games, his pride got the best of him, and he wants to be out there. He’s really been a difference maker for us,” Quinn said.
Boswell hit a three-pointer in the pivotal fourth quarter as well, and scored nine points in the game.
The game started off sloppy for both sides in the first four minutes. Spain Park threw the ball away three times trying to dump it in to Wiley, but threes started falling in bunches for both squads. The teams combined for five of them in the first quarter, all of them coming in the last four minutes of the frame.
The second quarter was back and forth between the two teams, and Gadsden City took a 34-32 lead at halftime.
Jamal Johnson picked up his third foul early in the second quarter and had to exit the game for a period of time. He came alive in the third quarter with a pair of threes, but picked up his fourth foul with 1:10 left in the period.
Johnson avoided his fifth foul the rest of the contest, and finished with 12 points, four assists, four rebounds, and two blocks.
The Titans put three players into double figures, as Johnson led them with 17 points, Kidd-McKinney scored 14, and Jacob Hyde added ten.
Brown was named to the All-Region team, while Wiley was named the MVP of the Northeast Regional.
The win marked Spain Park’s second Northeast Regional championship (the other coming in 2007), and secures a spot in the Final Four. The Jags will take on the winner of Lee-Montgomery and Central-Phenix City at the BJCC on Thursday, March 3, at 1:30 p.m.