E.A. Sports Today

Spring Garden girls ‘survive & advance’

UPDATED: Sharp shooting from outside early carries Panthers to 1A girls title game

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — Spring Garden used some sharp outside shooting early and confounded its opponent with a combination of zone and man defenses to beat two-time state champion Brantley 36-26 Monday to reach the AHSAA Class 1A girls state title game.

The Panthers (33-2) will play Keith (26-5) in Thursday’s 4 p.m. 1A girls final at the BJCC.

“Glad to survive and advance; that’s what we wanted to do,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “It wasn’t a real pretty game, but it doesn’t matter. We won.

“These girls, they really wanted this. They did not just come down here to be coming. They weren’t satisfied with just coming. We felt that way at practice this week. I thought they battled tough all day today.”

The Panthers hang their hat on defense and outside shooting, and both were in evidence Monday. They hit 6 of 16 3-pointers in the game — five in the first half to open a 21-15 lead — and held the Bulldogs (27-3) to 23 percent shooting. They negated Brantley’s size with a combination of zone and man, especially in the second half. The Bulldogs were 0-for-15 from beyond the arc in the game, 0-for-10 in the second half.

“We like to shoot it and we’re going to shoot it, but we’ve got to make them for it to be effective and we made just enough tonight early that I thought things were going to be in our favor,” Austin said. “I thought it set the tone for us.

“We shoot hundreds of them at practice every day because we count on them and it’s nice to shoot the ball pretty good down here.”

The Panthers didn’t put a scorer in double figures, but Darian Gaines had nine points — on three 3-pointers, all in the first half. Madison Sides and Tykeah Rogers had eight each. Rogers also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Spring Garden won the battle of the boards, 42-29.

“We’re never satisfied,” Gaines said. “We always want the biggest thing we can get and we want to go as far as we can go. We’ve never been here before, I’m the only senior, but we’ve been in so many championship games this year and it’s just prepared us for this big one.

“We’re going for that all out. We’re going to get that (blue trophy) and bring it home.”

Austin didn’t mind saying that Panthers’ lack of Final Four experience was a “big concern,” but the Panthers came through it like troopers.

“Sometimes you have to get here before you can win it unless you’re pretty good; we haven’t bought into the fact we’re pretty good yet,” Austin said. “Coming down here with so many youngsters was a big concern of ours … but sometimes you’re just too young to know any better.

The victory was Spring Garden’s 25th in a row and snapped Brantley’s 18-game winning streak.

Keith earned its trip to the finals with a 52-34 victory over Decatur Heritage. Harriet Winchester, a junior guard, led the Bears with 20 points. Junior forward Zykia Pettway had 12 points and 17 rebounds. The Bears have won 14 in a row.

(On the cover: Spring Garden’s players erupt off the bench as the horn sounds at the end of their 36-26 victory over Brantley in the 1A girls semifinal Monday.)

Spring Garden 36, Brantley 26

SPRING GARDEN (33-2) – AJ Broome 1-3 0-0 2, Darian Gaines 3-6 0-2 9, Madison Sides 1-5 5-8 8, Payton McGinnis 0-2 1-2 1, Tykeah Rogers 2-11 4-9 8, Kerstin Bryant 0-0 2-4 2, Savannah Dempsey 2-5 0-0 6. Totals 9-32 12-25 36.

BRANTLEY (27-3) – Alexis Wilcox 0-5 0-0 0, Saquaya Lane 3-8 2-2 8, Sydnee Bryan 0-6 0-0 0, Payton Burnett 5-16 0-2 10, Amahni Upshaw 2-5 2-5 6, Kassidy Wilcox 0-4 0-0 0, Olivia Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Elizabeth Bush 0-0 0-0 0, Lauren Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Aleyah Person 1-1 0-1 2, Destiny Jones 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 11-47 4-10 26.

Spring Garden 11 10 5 10 — 36
Brantley 4 11 6 5 — 26

3-point goals: Spring Garden 6-16 (Broome 0-2, Gaines 3-5, Sides 1-4, McGinnis 0-1, Dempsey 2-4); Brantley 0-15 (Bryan 0-6, Burnett 0-7, Wilcox 0-2). Rebounds: Spring Garden 42 (Rogers 11, McGinnis 8); Brantley 29 (Upshaw 8). Total fouls: Spring Garden 16, Brantley 23. Fouled out: Gaines, Wilcox, Lane, Upshaw. Officials: Dearen, Taylor, Cameron.

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