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Garden girls finally receive their championship rings

The Spring Garden Lady Panther basketball team shows off their 2019-20 Class 1A state championship rings. The rings were presented to the players and coaches Friday night at halftime of the Spring Garden-West End football game. Photo by Alex Robertson.

SPRING GARDEN – Basketball championship celebrations are nothing new to the Spring Garden community, but their latest had to be put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday night during halftime of the Panthers’ football game against West End, the Lady Panthers finally had their day.

Not only were they presented with their latest championship rings, but they were formally presented their Class 1A state championship trophy from Alabama High School Athletic Association special guests, Associate Director Alvin Briggs and Executive Director Steve Savarese.

“We’re so honored to be here tonight and celebrate with you as we get to recognize our student athletes. This is a highlight of what we do,” Saverese told the crowd in attendance. “We so appreciate (Spring Garden principal and Cherokee County Schools Superintendent-elect) Mike (Welsh) inviting us up here tonight.

“This year there were so many tremendous accomplishments by the Spring Garden girls basketball team. (They went) 35-2, winning the seventh girls state 1A championship. That is an all-time AHSAA record for the most state championships for any girls team in the state of Alabama. Congratulations.

“I know Alvin and I really know the true success behind this wonderful team. First of all, the wonderful young ladies that you have. (Assistant coach) Damon (McDonald), we thank you for the great job you do. (Head coach) Ricky (Austin), we thank you for the great job you do, but we all know who the true coach is here. Dana (Austin), great job. It is indeed my privilege at this time, along with Alvin Briggs, Associate Executive Director, to present to these outstanding young ladies the 2020 1A girls state basketball championship trophy.”

Austin was honored Savarese and Briggs could join them for the occasion.

“To have Mr. Savarese and Mr. Briggs come up, they could have gone to any high school (football) game in the state tonight. It’s Labor Day weekend, and they did have other plans until Mr. Welsh told them what was going on. They changed their plans just to be here for this occasion. I am personally honored to have them here, just delighted they were able to make it such a special time for the girls,” Austin said.

Austin also said it was special to him to present the Lady Panthers with their rings personally.

“That’s the No. 1 thing, the girls having a great opportunity to close out the season,” Austin said. “I heard a lot of ‘oh my goodness’, ‘I can’t believe it’, things like that when they saw the rings. That’s the first time they saw them, when I opened it up and showed it to them. Their reaction is priceless.”

The rings are two-tone in color, with the Lady Panthers trademark maroon and gold. Austin said he consulted with his seniors to help with the design, which in turn was handled by Balfour.

“As we got dug into it (the design) and we realized we could get every player’s number on it, that’s probably the most personalized art detail we’ve ever had on a ring,” Austin said. “The technology has changed so much now and it’s allowed that to happen. I like having each player’s number on it. That’s something No. 3 is going to know No. 5, No. 5 is always going to remember No. 1. It just goes down the line. That’s special to have it identified like that.”

But nowhere near as special as the season the Lady Panthers had in 2019-20. They went 35-2, which culminated with a 53-45 victory over St. Luke’s in the Class 1A title game last February. It was the Lady Panthers’ third title in the past five years.

“That’s what stands out as a special year, how they attacked this,” Austin said. “They didn’t tiptoe and wait until the end. This was something they thought about early in the season. All of them are special. All of them are different. Having a daughter (Ace Austin) on this team most definitely makes it different.

“For Macy Reedy, Bre Rogers, Emma Jane Rogers, they’ve change their whole life to be around athletics and sports. They’ve had such a commitment to basketball. For those seniors to get to do it on their time, that’s all you can ask as a coach. It just makes it that much more special, the commitment they’ve made, to see them get that reward.”

Spring Garden’s Macy Reedy, left, reacts to her basketball state championship ring as it’s being presented to her from head coach Ricky Austin Friday night at halftime of the Spring Garden-West End football game. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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