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Rogers produces double-double as Spring Garden overtakes Winterboro to earn another trip to girls 1A Final Four

Spring Garden's Tykeah Rogers was named MVP of the girls Class 1A Northeast Regional after going for 14 points and 14 rebounds against Winterboro. (Photos by Stephen Miller)

Spring Garden’s Tykeah Rogers was named MVP of the girls Class 1A Northeast Regional after going for 14 points and 14 rebounds against Winterboro. (Photos by Stephen Miller)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Spring Garden seniors Madison Sides and Tykeah Rogers told coach Ricky Austin every day of the season they were going to get back to the Final Four, but Austin admitted he had his doubts at time.

The players told him again as the Northeast Regional progressed, but again Austin reminded them they had to get through Monday first.

The Lady Panthers allayed their coach’s fears and fulfilled their own prophecy by beating Winterboro 47-35 in the girls Class 1A regional final at Pete Mathews Coliseum. They will play the winner of the Keith-Loachapoka Central Regional title game in the Final Four Monday in Birmingham.

It was the Lady Panthers’ 10th region title in 14 appearances (all since 2002). The only one they missed in the run was 2012.

“It feels good to be going back to Birmingham,” Austin said. “Last year getting to the state championship game and knowing that feeling, we felt so good getting there, but since then, (Sides and Rogers) have reminded me every day ‘We’re going to finish it,’ and I just keep telling them this step and this step have to be taken care of. We can’t be looking too far ahead.”

Despite losing only one player off last year’s state runner-up team, Austin said the season’s trials left him with doubts about getting back to the BJCC. Sides and Rogers were coming off injuries – Sides had knee surgery and Rogers toe surgery – and it wasn’t until the area tournament he saw the hunger return to his team.

“We’re just now starting to play some of our best basketball,” Austin said. “This has been one of the most difficult years to get some chemistry going. We just lost one player and you’d think it was so much alike, but we’re so different.

“It’s been a different year, a different team. I’ve never been through a season like this when so much was coming back and we had so little chemistry, so little rhythm. I was starting to doubt … Once the playoffs started, I saw a team different than I’d seen all year. This bunch just never let up through all that hard time.”

Two things about the game stood out to Austin. His team couldn’t extend the lead with Winterboro’s Aniya Burroughs on the bench in early foul trouble and a big 3-pointer by Savannah Dempsey at the start of the fourth quarter that gave the Lady Panthers (29-4) “a little more wiggle room” to relax.

“Savannah’s been making big shots now for two years for us and that might be the biggest shot she’s made in her career,” Austin said.

“I just felt like it was my time to make a shot,” Dempsey said.

Rogers was named regional tournament MVP; she had 14 points and 14 rebounds in the title game. Sides had 15 points and Dempsey had 12. All three made the all-tournament team, along with Burroughs and teammate Anslea Twymon and Cedar Bluff’s Kerstin Price.

“We were pretty driven,” Sides said. “At the beginning of the season we watched a video and it was all about finishing, like how we’re going to finish what we started last year.

“We don’t think we played like we needed to in the state championship game last year, and we’ve got almost everybody back. I think every single person we’ve taken before has improved their game and we really are ready to finish what we didn’t last year.”

Spring Garden 47, Winterboro 35

WINTERBORO (23-5) – Aniya Burroughs 2-3 0-0 4, Anslea Twymon 4-20 2-2 10, Aleise Walton 0-4 0-0 0, Morgan Merritt 3-8 1-1 9, Nadia Estelle 3-6 3-4 9, Kendreika McKenzie 0-0 0-0 0, Taniya Garrett 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 13-45 6-7 35.

SPRING GARDEN (29-4) – AJ Broome 0-4 2-2 2, Kerstin Bryant 2-3 0-0 4, Madison Sides 5-13 3-4 15, Savannah Dempsey 4-6 0-1 12, Tykeah Rogers 5-8 4-9 14, Katie Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Deana Lambert 0-0 0-0 0, Payton McGinnis 0-1 0-0 0, Tiyonna Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, Madison Jennings 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-35 9-16 47.

Winterboro 7 2 14 12 — 35
Spring Garden 11 10 9 17 — 47

3-point goals: Winterboro 3-19 (Twymon 0-6, Walton 0-4, Merritt 2-7, Estelle 0-1, Garrett 1-1); Spring Garden 6-16 (Broome 0-2, Bryant 0-1, Sides 2-8, Dempsey 4-5). Rebounds: Winterboro 31 (Twymon 8); Spring Garden (Tk. Rogers 14). Fouled out: Burroughs. Total fouls: Winterboro 14, Spring Garden 12. Officials: Will Rasely, Cordell Dodd, Richard Taylor.

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