E.A. Sports Today

Dempsey rises, Anniston falls

Spring Garden’s ‘X-factor’ hits five 3-pointers, helps team grab a lead the Lady Bulldogs just can’t overcome

By Shannon Fagan
Cherokee County Herald

SPRING GARDEN – Spring Garden basketball coach Ricky Austin felt his Lady Panthers played their best first quarter of the season Thursday night against 5A Anniston.

They defended well, handled the ball and made extra passes. He called it a crisp beginning and it produced an 11-point lead.

But the Lady Bulldogs fought back and made it a close game in the second half, but never could overtake their hosts before falling 57-51.

Raven Cooley’s long 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer made it a six-point game, but the Lady Panthers (11-4) managed to stay out front and eventually avenge a 49-39 loss back in Anniston at a time both teams were trying to find their identities.

“No lead was safe,” Austin said. “Even down to the final 15 seconds, they were still getting after us, but I’m real proud of our team for handling that throughout the game.

“We kept making big plays, and that’s a sign of a good team. We were a good team tonight. I was proud of how we were playing. We’d get up, and they’d battle back. We’d get up, they’d hit a 3, but we kept finding ways to make big plays. That’s not what we’ve been doing this year, so that’s awful encouraging to see.”

Spring Garden’s Savannah Dempsey led all scorers with 24 points that included five 3-pointers, four in the first half. Tykeah Rogers had 20 points 12 rebounds; she was 8-of-9 at the foul line.

A lot of Dempsey’s good looks at the basket were the result of Anniston sagging down to defend Rogers – and she delivered. Austin called her “kind of the X-factor” in the game.

“Coach Rat (Austin) has really been pushing us this week, and during practice, he helped me to see how I could get my shot off quicker; I think that really worked tonight,” Dempsey said. “I wouldn’t be able to get those looks if Tookie wasn’t really big on the inside. The passes my teammates made were right in my shot pocket, and I knew I would knock them down for us.”

Cooley led the Lady Bulldogs (9-4) with 23 points, including four treys, despite the box-and-one Spring Garden played her, with AJ Broome as the “one.” Davia Palmer had 13 points and Miajah Bullock had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Austin said Cooley was the best player his team has played so far this season.

“Raven has been playing well,” Anniston coach Eddie Bullock agreed. “She’s been on a good streak. We’ve just got to get her a little help.

“Miajah normally scores, but she hasn’t quite gotten in a rhythm. She’s been out of sync the last five or six games. We’re trying to get her back in rhythm. It’s better to peak late than too early. Hopefully, we’ve got time to get there.”

Spring Garden built its lead back up to 41-32 heading into the fourth quarter, but Anniston wouldn’t go away. The Lady Bulldogs cut their deficit to five on two occasions — and had chances to cut into the lead even further — but couldn’t come up with the big shot when they needed it down the stretch.

“They played hard, but there were just certain situations where we didn’t play smart,” Bullock said. “We missed a few layups. We kind of got out of position as far as recognizing things. My biggest thing is trying to get us to focus. When you get into postseason play, it only takes one or two games, or one or two quarters, and you’re out. I think one time they had us down 16-2, and we don’t ever get down like that.

“One off-night, one off-quarter or one off-half like that could be the difference — like in the game tonight. You want to make sure you don’t have any mental lapses, and that’s what I think we had a couple of times tonight. We had some mental lapses defensively. We had a couple of mental lapses offensively. It’s nothing that can’t be fixed.”

Shannon Fagan is the sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald.

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