Spain Park’s Barker named 2019-20 Player of the Year
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor
HOOVER – During her freshman season, Spain Park’s Sarah Ashlee Barker hit a 3-pointer with three seconds left in her first state championship appearance against the Hoover Buccaneers back on March 4, 2017, that forced overtime.
The Jaguars went on to lose that game 51-47, and while they came back to win the championship a year later 56-26, it came against McGill-Toolen and there always seemed to be unfinished business between Barker and the Bucs.
But this year, four years after her special career started, Barker was able to complete her journey with redemption. Following last year’s loss to Hewitt-Trussville in the Elite Eight to prevent the Jaguars a third straight trip to the Final Four, she was determined to get back to not only the Final Four, but the state championship.
Despite a tight battle against Vestavia Hills in the Elite Eight, Barker helped her team take the leap back to the Final Four for the third time in her four years there, while making easy work of McGill-Toolen in the semifinals to advance to the state championship.
Awaiting Barker and Spain Park was none other than crosstown rival Hoover.
While she fouled out with two minutes left and didn’t have her usual dominant shooting performance, she still finished with a double-double thanks to 14 points and 10 rebounds and was a force on the defensive end, which allowed the Jags to pull ahead for a strong lead throughout, before hanging on for a 51-47 victory.
“It was redemption,” Barker said. “We won my 10th grade year, but we didn’t get to play Hoover in the championship. Our freshman year, we lost to them and this year we beat them. That makes it 10 times better.”
That win completed a special journey for Barker, who averaged close to a double-double each of the last three years. This year alone, she averaged 23.3 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 rebounds per game.
That was more than enough to earn Barker the Shelby County Reporter’s Player of the Year award. She was more than just an impressive talent, but when the team was struggling or even when she was struggling herself, she had the ability to lift others up.
Often, the Jags would go into the half struggling, but come out of the half a different team largely because of the way Barker either took over or helped her teammates gain confidence.
She closed her career with three state championship appearances over the last four years, two state championships in the last three years and by making it to at least the Elite Eight in all four years with the Jaguars.
Barker is now headed to the University of Georgia, where she’ll look to continue turning heads at the collegiate level.