SPRING GARDEN – The Spring Garden Lady Panthers began their basketball season about a month ago in the Champions Academy Thanksgiving Tournament in Alexandria against Class 6A Oxford. They lost not only a heartbreaker by a point, but they also lost sophomore guard Kayley Kirk to a knee injury.
On Thursday, the Lady Panthers got another shot at the Lady Yellow Jackets. And this time, they played a more complete game.
Spring Garden hit five 3-pointers in the third quarter to break open a close game and earn a 57-44 victory.
“I think some of our role players – Abbey Steward, Abbie Woods and Bri Boles – have stepped up a little bit more and got some reps and it showed,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “Abbey Steward hit several big 3-pointers tonight, and that was big part of it.
“That (first game) was the game Kaylee (Kirk) got hurt in, and it kind of put us in a tailspin. We did a lot of standing and watching. I didn’t prepare them for that position to be vacant the whole game. It was an ugly game on our part. They had some energy and they wanted to beat us down there, but that was really the difference tonight. Our role players stepped up and our girls really wanted to win this. They were disappointed with that loss. They really wanted to play Oxford tonight. They had a lot of extra energy.”
Spring Garden (8-2) jumped out to an early 17-9 first-quarter lead, but Oxford managed to tie the game at 24 on a 3-pointer by Lisa Montgomery with 1:25 remaining in the first half. But the Lady Panthers regained the lead on their next trip up the court on a 3-pointer by Sarah Kate McKay.
After a basket by Oxford’s La’Mya McGrue cut Spring Garden’s lead to a point at 27-26, Lady Panther point guard closed out the quarter by connecting on two free throws and a buzzer-beating jumper to give Spring Garden a 31-26 edge at halftime.
The Lady Panthers blew the game open in the third quarter by going on a 20-7 run, aided by Steward’s outside shooting. All three of her treys came in the quarter. She finished with nine points.
“At halftime, we thought we were taking good shots. We liked the shots we were taking. We just weren’t making enough of them,” Austin said. “The second half we got a little hot right there. That’s basically all I told them. I like the shots we’re taking. Let’s keep looking at them. Let’s just get our feet planted a little better and get some good release on the ball. I thought balls looked better going up. I could tell when it left their hands the ones that were going in.
“It takes adjustment with Oxford. They’re long and quick. We don’t play that enough and that’s why I like playing teams like that. They’re long and quick. It does affect your shot, but I thought we adjusted to it in the second half. I was proud of that win, proud of how we played.”
McKay led three Lady Panthers in double figures with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Neely Welsh contributed 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Lexie Adkison posted 10 points, 18 rebounds, two assists and a block. Ace Austin collected nine points, five rebounds, five steals, four assists and two blocks.
Montgomery and Xaionna Whitfield topped Oxford’s scorers. They both netted 13 points, with Montgomery sinking three treys. Kaleah Taylor finished with nine points.
Spring Garden 73, Oneonta 69
SPRING GARDEN – The Spring Garden Panthers were without one of their basketball starters for Thursday night’s game against visiting Oneonta.
Senior forward Luke Welsh is in Mobile preparing for Friday’s North-South All-Star Football game. But his first cousin Cam Welsh stepped in admirably.
Cam Welsh collected 11 points, a pair of rebounds and a pair of assists in the Panthers’ 73-69 victory.
“I told him I’ve been wanting to get him more reps in. I like our tempo when Cam’s in,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “Defensively, Luke gives us some beef inside, some muscle, but Cam’s tough inside. Luke just takes up a little more space. He’s a little stronger, but I really like our flow with Cam in. Cam makes us a little quicker getting up the court. Cam really wants the ball and he wants to score. That’s what I see right now with Cam on the floor. He gives us another option offensively. I thought he did well. We’ve got to have Cam playing more minutes to just get him more comfortable with things that are happening in the game. He plays as hard as anybody I’ve got.”
Cam Welsh wasn’t the only Panther to perform well during Thursday’s game.
Weston Kirk led Spring Garden (4-3) with 24 points, six rebounds, six assists, a steal and a block. Ryley Kirk connected on four 3-pointers (three in the second half) and had 12 points to go along with five steals, four rebounds, an assist and a block. Cooper Austin added 11 points, eight assists, three steals, a rebound and a block. Chaz Pope contributed 10 points, five rebounds and two assists. Andrew Floyd finished with five points.
“I thought we let our offense come to us a little bit,” Coach Austin said. “I thought we forced some things early. We just weren’t taking the right tempo shot. It might have been a good shot, but it wasn’t the tempo we needed at that time. Ryley got hot and Weston come out of foul trouble and really went at them in the paint. Cooper made just enough plays to keep his position off-balance. Chaz hit a big three in the corner that got us going. Cam, I thought played really solid for it being his first start. I thought he did a great of job of being in the right spot on our offense helping us out there. He made a big three-point play (in the third quarter).”
The game was tight throughout. Spring Garden held a 15-13 advantage at the end of the first quarter, but Oneonta forged ahead at halftime 32-30. The Panthers put a little distance in the score in the third quarter, holding a 54-48 advantage heading to the fourth quarter.
Oneonta managed to cut its deficit to a point at 57-56 with under 6 ½ minutes left in the game on back-to-back 3-pointers by Dallas Jennings, but a pair of Ryley Kirk 3-pointers later on helped the Panthers prevent the Redskins from getting any closer.
“I thought we adjusted better and got a little bit tougher defensively in the second half. That was the difference in that game,” Coach Austin said.
Eli Buse led Oneonta with 14 points. Davin Young added 13 points and Jennings netted 12 before fouling out. Colin Swindle tossed in 11 points. Harrison Miller and Collin Moon finished with eight and seven points respectively.