The sophomore post player will be heard from a lot during the rest of her playing career at Spring Garden and was heard from during the Panthers’ Class 1A Northeast Regional semifinal against Skyline on Tuesday.
When she wasn’t heard from big Tuesday was because of foul trouble, however, as Skyline overcame her 21 points and 12 rebounds to eliminate Spring Garden 58-51 in Jacksonville State University’s Pete Mathews Coliseum.
Skyline (25-4) advanced to Friday’s 3:40 p.m. final against Woodville, while Spring Garden finished 25-5 and left wondering what could have been, had its top post player played the final 10 minutes of the first half against guard-heavy Skyline.
“Huge,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said when asked to assess Rogers’ downtime.
It wasn’t the only factor.
Spring Garden went 0-for-16 from the 3-point arc. Asked how long it had been since the Panthers went so cold behind the arc, Austin said, “Junior high.”
Skyline also got hot shooting from Sydney and Kelsey Ivey, who combined to six of 16 3-point attempts. Sydney scored a team-high 20 points, and Kelsey added 12.
Still, Spring Garden rallied to within six points twice and five points once inside the final minute, largely on the play of Rogers and Haley Motes, the Panthers’ strong post tandem. Not only did Rogers score and rebound, but she bothered Skyline’s in-bounds passes from the head of the Panthers’ press.
“She’s very physical,” Austin said. “They had nobody to match up with her, and we thought she had to be on the floor.
“We knew she’s prone to foul trouble. She’s been in foul trouble all year early in games. We’ve worked real hard coaching her out of that for games like this.”
Rogers scored seven of Spring Garden’s first eight points and had six rebounds in the game’s first six minutes, but she picked up her second foul at 2:19 of the first quarter. She sat until halftime, and Skyline used the time to turn a 15-10 lead into a 36-21 lead at halftime.
“It was a big difference in the game,” Austin said. “They can collapse on Haley when that happens. We’re not as good rebounding. Our defense is not as good when she’s on the bench.
“We’ve got to have her on the floor. If she can’t figure out how to stay out of foul trouble, there’ll be a lot of games like this.”
The Vikings had already started to rally before Rogers got into foul trouble, however. They called timeout after her putback put Spring Garden up 5-0 at 6:17 of the first quarter, and Skyline outscored the Panthers 15-5 the rest of the quarter.
“I told them right before we went out, ‘Look, one thing we can’t do on the first possession is give up three or four offensive rebounds and give them some kind of momentum,’” Skyline coach Ronnie McCarver said. “Guess what -- that’s what happened.
“Then we settled down and did a good job, and we went after the big girl (Rogers) and got her in foul trouble. After we settled down and made them guard us a little bit, it turned the momentum a little.”
Skyline held a double-digit lead until Darian Gaines hit a layup to bring Spring Garden within 48-39 at 6:18 of the fourth quarter.
The ensuing possession saw Skyline get five offensive rebounds, four by Taylor McCarver, and resulted in Jordan McCarver’s basket to make it 50-39 at 4:47 and a foul.
Jordan McCarver, who finished with 16 points, missed the and-one free throw, but the ball went out of bounds to Skyline. After another foul, Jordan McCarver hit two free throws to put Skyline up 52-39 with 4:15 to play.
At one point before the Vikings scored on their four-point trip, Rogers and Motes had hands on a potential rebound.
“Five offensive rebounds, I thought that was key,” Austin said. “I thought we were making a push.”
Still, Spring Garden closed to within 55-49 on a Motes layup with 43 seconds left and 56-51 off a Gaines layup with 14 seconds to play.
“Coach told us that, if we were going to win this game, we had to turn ourselves up,” Rogers said.
Kelsey Ivey closed it out with two free throws at 0:12.
Motes added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Spring Garden. She’s one of two seniors -- point guard Auburn Kirk is the other -- Spring Garden will lose.
The Panthers, four-time state champions, had not lost in the semifinals in 11 prior Northeast Regional appearances. That dates back to 2002.
“We were Thanksgiving champs,” Austin said. “We were Harralson County champions, county champs, area champs. I know we’d trade every one of them for this one. This is the only one we had really talked about.”
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter, @jmedley_star.