By Shannon Fagan. WEIS Sports Director
SPRING GARDEN – In a tight area basketball game against Jacksonville Christian at halftime Tuesday night, Levi Hatcher challenged John and Jake Welsh to become more dominant inside the paint.
The twin brothers responded.
John Welsh scored nine of his game-high 24 points in the second half, while Jacob Welsh delivered 17 of his 23 points after halftime in the Panthers’ 77-53 victory.
“Coach Hatcher told us we were the ones who had to make a difference,” John Welsh said. “He talked to me and Jacob and said ‘We’ve got to use our size in the paint and finish.’ He wrote up a play that we ran a few times and it kept working.”
Thanks to the Welsh twins, what was a 33-32 Panther lead at halftime turned into a 56-40 edge at the end of the third quarter.
“By the start of the third quarter, me and John just started playing basketball,” Jacob Welsh added. “We really weren’t getting shots around the 3-point line, so he said to win this game we had to dominate inside. I give credit to John, Connor (Bates), Cam (Welsh) and Chapel (Pope) for getting me and John passes. They helped us be strong down there and get some shots up.”
“We went into halftime thinking we survived. We hung on,” Hatcher said. “They were exposing the middle a little bit. They wanted to double team our posts. We tried to make a few adjustments. We really settled in the second quarter for a pass up the sideline and shoot it without giving our bigs inside a look.
“They fed off each other well (in the second half). Our guys did a good job of leading them with good passes. I think the past couple of games we’ve been sloppy with our passes, but Cam made some good passes tonight, and our posts were able to get it, get spread out and were able to finish.”
Spring Garden (3-2, 2-0) went on a 7-0 run to begin the game before the Thunder (5-2, 0-1) began to roll. Jacksonville Christian hit four 3-pointers in the quarter, including a pair by Tyler Doggrell. At the end of a quarter, the Panthers held on for a 17-14 advantage.
A 7-0 to begin the second quarter built the Panther lead to 10 at 24-14, but again, Jacksonville Christian rallied behind its 3-point shooting. This time, Ethan Fair was firing from the arc. He hit on four treys in the quarter to help the Thunder keep things close, trailing by a point at 33-32 at intermission.
Fair finished the game connecting on five 3-pointers. Doggrell delivered four treys in the game.
“They’ve got two dudes who can play,” Hatcher said of Fair and Doggrell, who led the Thunder with 23 and 17 points respectively. “I thought we did a pretty good job down the stretch. When they missed a shot, we didn’t give them many second chances. We cleaned up the glass. We handled their press real well. I felt like we did a good job of handling things and making adjustments in the second half.”
Behind the Welsh twins, the Panthers went on a 23-8 third-quarter run to take a 56-40 advantage. Spring Garden closed out the game by outscoring the Thunder 21-13 in the fourth for the final.
Jon Marq Rogers sank three treys and finished with 14 points for Spring Garden. Cam Welsh added seven points.
The Panthers host another area rival in the Gaylesville Trojans on Friday.