Coach Ricky Austin knew Monday afternoon was not going to be a walk in the park for his girls in this last step towards the opportunity to defend their State Championship from last year. J.F. Shields made sure that was just the way things boiled down in their match with Spring Garden, even in a game where at one point during the 1st half they were down by as much as 21 before heading to the break. A 14-2 run in the 3rd period cut the lead down for Spring Garden to just 8, and quickly went to 6 just 30 seconds into the 4th, all very much due to the heightened efforts from the Shields Panthers and several problems on the defensive end for Spring Garden with allowing second chance baskets.
But just when you almost felt like Garden could be seeing their hopes slipping from their grasp, they stepped up past their mistakes and delivered on the grand stage. Payton McGinnis played a huge part in the 4th in point, hitting some big layups early on and delivering strong defensive plays in the game’s closing minutes, Kerstin Bryant helping set up the defining shots of the final period, and the combined play offensively and defensively from all of the Lady Panthers of Spring Garden ultimately led them to a 48-38 victory over J.F. Shields.
Statistically, we start with J.F. Shields who see their season end with a #4 ranking and a 19-3 record. Mar’Quaja Brown was the big dog late in the game for the Lady Panthers, and she finished the game with a team high in scoring with 22 points along with 1 steal. Rebounds played a big key in the 2nd half, especially on the offensive end for J.F. Shields, with Shamya Johnson being the big reason for that with 6 offensive boards during a team high 9 rebound performance that also included 6 points and a team high 2 blocks.
Then for the defending champions Spring Garden, the #3 girls in Class 1A improved their record to 25-7 on the year and secured their 30th straight win over Class 1A schools. Tiyonna Rogers once again showed off a team leading performance for her team, scoring a team-high 19 points and grabbing a team-high 13 rebounds in a double-double game for the young woman. Kerstin Bryant’s late handiness with the ball paid off with a team high game in assists with 6 to pair nicely with 6 rebounds of her own, and to mention it as well for her efforts late Payton McGinnis ended with 14 points after a strong 4th period and also accounted for 11 rebounds and 3 assists which was yet another double-double performance on the Spring Garden squad.
Now awaiting Spring Garden in the final test of the season, the Class 1A State Championship game, is R.A. Hubbard who clawed their way to a win over Westminster 48-44 earlier Monday. The Lady Panthers will see the Chiefs on Thursday at 4 PM, and no matter what it is last chance win or lose. 1 team leaves with a blue trophy, the other goes home with a red, and Spring Garden could certainly use a match to their blue 2016 1A State Championship trophy.