“It’s the fourth time we’ve played each other, so it was an epic battle that, as you saw, could have gone either way,” Cedar Bluff coach Joe Carpenter said. “We came to play tonight. I think we’ve done a lot of training trying to reach peak performance, and I think that’s helped us.”
Spring Garden (19-13) got off to a slow start, having 12 points and 12 turnovers in the first half. Cedar Bluff (17-15) jumped out to a big lead only to see it diminish in the fourth quarter. Things started when Darian Gaines hit a 3-pointer to cut a double-digit lead down to seven.
After points were traded the next several minutes, the Panthers cut the deficit to one after Haley Motes laid in a basket with 5.4 seconds left. However, Cedar Bluff managed two foul shots, then one more to account for the final margin.
“As disappointed as I am for my team not advancing, I am really that excited for Cedar Bluff for advancing,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “As much as we’re hurting right now, it was exciting for me to see their players celebrating at the end because they come from the same place that we come from.”
Cedar Bluff’s first regional appearance is followed by its first state semifinal appearance as it will play either No. 6 Brantley or top-ranked St. Luke’s on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Brantley and St. Luke’s play Saturday at 9 a.m.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star