Panthers win tournament

Spring Garden captured the boys’ championship in the annual Cherokee Invitational tournament Saturday night at Spring Garden, downing Lafayette (Ga.) 64-61 in the title game. No one seems to recall the last time a Spring Garden boys’ team won the Invitational.  

“It was most definitely a huge accomplishment,” head coach Ricky Austin said Tuesday morning. “It was a very good team we played in the championship game. I think if you had watched Lafayette the two nights before, not very many people were giving us a chance.”   

It was the first Invitational championship for the boys in Austin’s time as head coach.  

Now 7-3, the Panthers won’t have much time to reflect on their accomplishment. They begin play in the annual Hilburn-Patterson Invitational at Haralson County High School in Tallapoosa, Ga. today. Spring Garden meets Bremen (Ga.) at 4 p.m. Central time.

“I think it’s important that we show that we’re not complacent, show that we’re still hungry to get better and willing to get better,” Austin said.   

Riley Austin was 8-for-8 at the free throw line and finished with a team-high 21 points. Weston Kirk went 1-for-2 from outside the 3-point arc and 7-for-9 from the floor inside the line for 17 points. Draevan Bowman was 4-for-8 from the floor, all from long range, for 12 points.

In their semifinal game, the Panthers ran away from Sand Rock after the first quarter and won 68-35.

As a team, the Panthers were 10-for-11 at the charity stripe. Dylan Rogers and Austin each ended with 14 points.

Spring Garden opened the tournament by pummeling Gaylesville 102-32. Isiah Sanchez and Ashton Rogers each tallied 21 points. Kirk contributed 16 points. Dylan Rogers had 14 points and two assists. Austin ended with 11 points and three assists.

Spring Garden tuned up for the Invitational with a 70-54 road win over Collinsville on Dec. 19. Sanchez was 5-for-9 on 3-point tries and ended with 23 points. Austin scored 17 points and added four assists. Dalton Rogers had 14 points, eight boards and led in steals with four.

Spring Garden girls win tourney

Meeting Collinsville, a rival in area play for years before the DeKalb County school moved up from Class 1A to Class 2A, may have been just what Spring Garden needed for motivation in the girls’ championship game of the Cherokee Invitational basketball tournament. Head coach Ricky Austin said the atmosphere was electric prior to Spring Garden’s 55-35 win.      

“You could just tell it meant more than just playing a championship game. It was about playing a familiar opponent that we used to battle with and we knew we had better be ready,” Austin said Tuesday morning. “That’s probably the most focused that I’ve seen our girls up to this point this year. We jumped out to like an 11-0 lead and it happened so fast. It was really fun to watch our girls show up with that kind of intensity.”

Payton McGinnis led Spring Garden with 15 points. Tiyonna Rogers scored 14 points and led on the boards with six rebounds. Kerstin Bryant had 12 points.       

The Panthers downed Sand Rock 56-46 in the semifinals. Rogers finished with a double-double of 26 points and 11 rebounds. Welsh scored 14 points and added six rebounds. Bryant had six points, seven boards and four assists.    

Nine Panthers scored in Thursday’s 70-24 opening round win over Gaylesville. Rogers finished with 19 points and eight rebounds. Neely Welsh scored 18 points and added three rebounds and two steals. Bryant had 10 points, six steals, four rebounds and three assists. 

Now 13-1, the Spring Garden girls do not return to the court until Jan. 2 when they host powerful Haralson County (Ga.).