E.A. Sports Today

Big time play

Spring Garden girls one win away from defending their basketball title after holding off J.F. Shields

Tiyonna Rogers had a big first half and finished with a double-double. On the cover, Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin is intense in the huddle. (All photos by Greg Warren)

Monday’s Results
R.A. Hubbard 48, Westminster-Oak Mountain 44
Spring Garden 48, J.F. Shields 38
Tanner 60, R.C. Hatch 24
Geneva County 41, Fyffe 35 (OT)

By Shannon Fagan
Special to East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM – Sophomore swingman Payton McGinnis has Spring Garden basketball history in her bloodline.

Her mother Jana was a member of the school’s first state basketball title in 1987. The younger McGinnis got to experience her own championship last season, and now she can experience something her mother never did.

The Lady Panthers are just one victory away from winning back-to-back titles for only the second time in school history after disposing of No. 4 J.F. Shields 48-38 in the Class 1A state semifinals Monday at the BJCC.

They will play R.A. Hubbard (21-8) at 4 p.m. Thursday for the title.

Just how badly does McGinnis want another championship?

With Spring Garden (26-7) clinging to a six-point lead in the fourth quarter, McGinnis hustled and caught a cross-court pass that could have gone the other way and cut even further into the Lady Panthers’ lead. Later, she converted a pass from Kerstin Bryant underneath the basket to put Spring Garden back up eight at 41-33 with just over five minutes to play.

“That was big time,” said McGinnis, who finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. “We had to have the ball. I knew I could not let her come and steal it from me. That would have been a layup and two more points, and it could have got them going even more.”

Instead, McGinnis’ basket ended an 18-6 run by J.F. Shields and seemed to spark Spring Garden the rest of the game.

“It’s just a great heads-up on Payton’s part, not just to meet the pass but to protect that possession,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “She’s just a sophomore, but … that was a senior play protecting that possession for us late in the game.

“There were some big possessions, and we haven’t seen that in a while. It wasn’t as pretty as we’d like, but it doesn’t matter right now. We’re in the state championship game.”

In the first half, it looked like Spring Garden would have an easy time advancing to the state title game. The Lady Panthers built a 33-15 halftime lead behind a double-double by Tiyonna Rogers and getting J.F. Shields’ 6-foot-3 sophomore center Shamya Johnson into foul trouble.

But J.F. Shields made a 16-6 run in the third quarter to make things interesting.

“We knew they were going to make a run at us., but you could tell we hadn’t been in a close game in a while,” Austin said.

Sophomore guard Mar’quaja Brown led J.F. Shields with a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers. Freshman guard Ti’Ajah McCreary added nine points. Johnson finished with seven points.

Senior guard Savannah Dempsey connected on a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 14 points for Spring Garden. Rogers had 19 points and 13 boards.

“We’re back in the finals, and it’s an incredible feeling, but it’s not time to quit now,” McGinnis said. “We know our history has led us here and we’re trying to make more history. It feels good to know we’ve got a chance to add another banner on our wall.”

Shannon Fagan is sports editor of the Cherokee County Herald

Spring Garden 48, J.F. Shields 38
J.F. SHIELDS (19-4) –
Marquaja Brown 9-27 0-0 22, Tyeisha Davis 0-0 0-0 0, TiAjah McCreary 4-19 0-0 9, Shamya Johnson 3-5 1-2 7, Anajihe Johnson 0-2 0-2 0, Zaniyah Marshall 0-2 0-0 0, Graysha Salter 0-0 0-0 0, Whitney Davis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-55 1-4 38.

SPRING GARDEN (26-7) – A.J. Broome 0-1 1-4 1, Kerstin Bryant 0-1 0-1 0, Savannah Dempsey 3-13 6-6 14, Payton McGinnis 5-7 2-2 14, Tiyonna Rogers 8-20 3-5 19, Macy Reedy 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-42 12-18 48.

J.F. Shields 7 8 16 7 — 38
Spring Garden 11 22 6 9 — 48

3-point goals: J.F. Shields 5-20 (Brown 4-13, McCreary 1-6, Marshall 0-1); Spring Garden 4-15 (Dempsey 2-12, McGinnis 2-2, Rogers 0-1). Rebounds: J.F. Shields 25 (S. Johnson 9); Spring Garden 46 (Rogers 13, McGinnis 11). Fouled out: McCreary. Total fouls: J.F. Shields 19, Spring Garden 5. Officials: Jolly, Brackett, Crenshaw.

The Lady Panthers are all smiles coming off the court knowing they’re going back to the state championship game. (Photo by Greg Warren)

You must be logged in to post a comment Login