Adding to his­tory

Spring Gar­den earns 15th girls county cham­pi­onship

Cherokee County Herald - - SPORTS - By Shan­non Fa­gan

CEN­TRE – Win­ning Chero­kee County Bas­ket­ball Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onships have al­ways meant a lot to the Spring Gar­den Lady Pan­thers, but earn­ing a county ti­tle on Satur­day at the Gads­den State-Chero­kee Arena had a lit­tle ex­tra in­cen­tive.

“At prac­tice this week, we talked about how we were tied with Chero­kee County with 14 (girls county cham­pi­onships),” se­nior guard Madi­son Sides said. “Coach Rat (Ricky Austin) said ‘Not to add any pres­sure, but you’re built on pres­sure and I know you can han­dle this.’”

The Lady Pan­thers ac­cepted the chal­lenge Austin had for them, but a short-handed Sand Rock team didn’t go down with­out a fight.

Spring Gar­den was able to win a de­fen­sive strug­gle 45-36 to not only earn their 15th over­all county ti­tle since 1981, but also their third straight and 10th since the year 2000.

“Know­ing we left our mark on his­tory in that way makes it even bet­ter,” Sides said. “Know­ing we did it with the team and coaches we have just makes it greater.”

Sides led the Lady Pan­thers (15-4) with 14 points, four re­bounds, three as­sists and a steal. Se­nior cen­ter Tykeah Rogers de­liv­ered 13 points and nine boards, but Sand Rock (15-5) made Spring Gar­den earn ev­ery­thing it got.

“We knew it was go­ing to be a slob­ber knocker. That’s a good term for this game,” Austin said. “I think there were 30-some­thing fouls called. It was a strangely-called game, and I think that was an ad­van­tage to­ward Sand Rock. They’re very ag­gres­sive. You’ve got to give them credit. Part of their game plan was to come in and get af­ter us, which it al­ways is, but the at­mos­phere and flow of the game was dif­fer­ent. It was re­ally a lot like a play­off game.

“There was a lot of ten­sion ev­ery pos­ses­sion. We made pretty good ad­just­ments to the way the game was called, and we were able to fin­ish it, but it prob­a­bly wasn’t a pretty game to watch from the stands on ei­ther side. We’re for­tu­nate to come out on top.”

Rogers felt the Lady Pan­thers’ de­fense was the dif­fer­ence in the game.

“That’s what kept us ahead,” she said. “We thought if we came out and played de­fense, we would win. We were a lit­tle emo­tional and a lit­tle hyped in the first half, but we came out and played like we should in the se­cond half.” As Austin said, it wasn’t pretty. De­spite miss­ing key se­niors Madi­son

The Spring Gar­den Lady Pan­thers earned their third straight Chero­kee County Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship on Satur­day with a 45-36 vic­tory over Sand Rock. The Lady Pan­thers are coached by Ricky Austin, Dana Austin, Da­mon McDon­ald andDex­ter Vines. Photo...

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