E.A. Sports Today

Pretty, good defense

Spring Garden plays ‘hateful’ defense to win another Northeast Regional girls title, meets J.F. Shields in state semifinals

By Shannon Fagan
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said he has a bunch of pretty girls on his basketball team, but he also said they sure can play some hateful defense.

Just ask the Skyline Lady Vikings following Wednesday’s Class 1A Northeast Regional final.

Third-ranked Spring Garden held No. 7 Skyline to just two field goals in the first half and seven all games in a 46-25 victory at Jacksonville State. It was their 11th Northeast Regional title and sends them to play South champion J.F. Shields (19-3) in the state semifinals noon Monday in Birmingham.

With the exception of Skyline’s 10-point fourth quarter — most of which came after Spring Garden had pulled its starters — the Lady Panthers (25-7) gave up single digits in seven quarters of regional play at Pete Mathews Coliseum. They also held Cedar Bluff to 25 points in the regional semifinals Friday.

They held Talladega County Central scoreless in the second half of their regional semifinal last year.

“We pride ourselves on it,” Austin said. “I’ve tried to go against them, and it is pretty nasty. They’ll knock you around and hit you. I can only imagine what it’s like when it’s really competition time.”

So where did this pride for defense come from?

“They kind of stole Alabama’s football theme early in the year, being hateful,” Austin said. “I read a newspaper article to them about it. They were hunting something, and now they break it down at practice every day. They just bought into it.”

The catalysts for Wednesday’s defensive effort were guards AJ Broome and Kerstin Bryant. They held Skyline’s top shooters Caity Ledwell and Bailee Usry to just one field goal in 18 attempts.

Ledwell and Usry both finished with three points. Usry had the lone field goal with ‪3:24 left in the third quarter. Baileigh Martin led the Lady Vikings with six points off the bench.

“(We) couldn’t score, couldn’t get a bucket,” Skyline coach Ronnie McCarver said. “They do a real good job (defensively). They put pressure on you. I didn’t know they were that physical until we got to playing against them.”

“That’s our main focus in practice — we really get after it,” Broome said. “We get our energy from our defense. We like to make them turn the ball over and get rebounds, then go and push the ball. That’s what gives us our energy.”
Offensively, Tiyonna Rogers led Spring Garden with 11 points. She also grabbed seven rebounds in earning tournament Most Valuable Player honors. She was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Payton McGinnis and Savannah Dempsey.

Spring Garden 46, Skyline 25
A.J. Broome 2-6 3-3 7, Kerstin Bryant 2-6 0-0 5, Savannah Dempsey 3-12 0-0 8, Payton McGinnis 2-4 5-5 9, Tiyonna Rogers 5-14 1-2 11, Katie Williams 0-0 0-0 0, Macy Reedy 2-2 0-0 6, Kristin Tierce 0-0 0-0 0, Alexis Adkinson 0-0 0-0 0, Madison Jennings 0-0 0-0 0, Breanna Rogers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 9-10 46.

SKYLINE (27-5) – Caity Ledwell 0-6 3-4 3, Tabitha Gifford 0-2 0-2 0, Madison Smith 1-3 2-2 4, Haley Rollins 0-3 0-1 0, Bailee Usry 1-12 1-2 3, Summer Buckner 1-4 0-0 2, Baleigh Martin 2-6 2-3 6, Aiden Bellomy 0-0 2-2 2, Sarah Lewis 0-3 0-0 0, Alli McAllister 1-2 0-0 2, Gracie Stuckey 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 7-45 10-16 25.

Spring Garden 10 13 16 7 — 46
Skyline 7 3 5 10 — 25

3-point goals: Spring Garden 5-18 (Bryant 1-3, Dempsey 2-11, McGinnis 0-1, T. Rogers 0-1, Reedy 2-2); Skyline 1-17 (Smith 0-2, Rollins 0-2, Usry 0-5, Buckner 0-1, Martin 0-3, Lewis 0-3, Stuckey 1-1). Rebounds: Spring Garden 37 (Bryant 8, T. Rogers 7); Skyline 33 (Ledwell 5). Assists: Spring Garden 11 (Broome 5, Bryant 4); Skyline 2 (Smith, Stuckey). Total fouls: Spring Garden 14, Skyline 15. Officials: Courtney Walker, Bill Young, Bryant Sparks.

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