E.A. Sports Today

Spring Garden wins close one

Coach’s son hits two free throws in final two seconds to help Panthers escape in area semifinals

By Shannon Fagan
Cherokee County Herald

CEDAR BLUFF — As close as the Class 1A, Area 13 boys basketball race has been this season, almost everyone who followed it expected a tight ball game between No. 7 Coosa Christian and Spring Garden in the first round of the area tournament Thursday at Cedar Bluff.

The two teams didn’t disappoint.

The Panthers connected on four of six free throws in the final 1:20, including Dylan Rogers’ final two of the game with 1.7 seconds left, to clinch a 53-49 victory.

The win sends Spring Garden (14-14) into Saturday’s championship game against No. 10 Cedar Bluff (17-11), a 79-27 winner over Gaylesville in the tournament opener.

“I’m very proud to survive and move on,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “To get down and scrap back and to make plays where we needed to make plays to get back in it, we’re fortunate. Give Coosa credit. They just keep making shots. They’re the kind of team that will keep you up all night because they’ve got so many playmakers.”

One of those playmakers is Coosa junior guard Caden Davidson. Riley Austin and Ben Ivey both were tasked with containing Davidson and they limited him to 18 points.

Austin, the sophomore point guard, posted 12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

“That’s not really me, but if I’m not scoring, then I’ve got to find a different way to help our team,” he said. “It wasn’t pretty, but we did it. It was the same type of game last year, but we’re more experienced this year. We had more fight in us this year and wanted to win.”

Spring Garden led by seven with 1:13 to play, but 50-43, but a 3-pointer by Davidson with 1:13 left and a jumper by Alex Holman at 34.6 cut it to 50-48 and it stayed tight to the wire.

Davidson tried to tie the game with a 3-pointer, but it wound up stuck on the side of the goal with 2.6 seconds left. The possession arrow was in the Conquerors’ favor, so they put it in play from under their goal.

Davidson was fouled and hit the first but missed the second. The ball went out of bounds off a Coosa player, giving Spring Garden possession with 2.1 seconds left.

Following a Spring Garden timeout, Ivey in-bounded to Rogers, who was fouled by Davidson with 1.7 seconds left. Rogers calmly sank his two free throws to seal the win. He led the Panthers with 16 points, including 12 in the second half.

“We knew what we were in for,” Coosa coach Richard Hollingsworth said. “Every time we play Spring Garden they’re close. We went overtime last year with them (in the area tournament) and split this year. We knew it was going to come down to the buzzer, and it did.”

Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald.

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