By Al Muskewitz, East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – There have been Kirks, Welshes and Austins in the Spring Garden basketball program for as long as boys coach Levi Hatcher can remember. In the final regular-season game of the year, the Welsh family combined for 56 points to lead the Panthers to their fifth straight victory, a 70-49 decision over Donoho at Oxford.
Jake Welsh was the most active, scoring a game-high 30 points and grabbing six rebounds. Twin brother John had 16 points and 11 rebounds. And cousin Cam had 10 points behind three 3-pointers.
“I haven’t been around the program a lot, but there’s not been a year go by where there wasn’t one or two or five of them,” Hatcher said. “All three of them are kind of like our driving forces. We’ve got other players who have their roles and do their things to keep the team going, but John has a high motor, offensive, defensive end he’s constantly laying it out on the line.
“Usually he’s the one giving us a lot of buckets on the offensive side, but today he did a great job on defense, rebounding, altering shots. I thought Jake was probably the most aggressive I’ve seen him all year and it’s coming at the right time. We talk about him all the time being a dominant presence, just commanding your space, and he finally did and you can tell by the results what happens.”
Jake got right to it. He scored Spring Garden’s first nine points and had 11 in the first quarter. What he didn’t get, John got on a couple 3s, and then Cam opened the second quarter with the Panthers’ first six points.
Jake is averaging 19.0 points during the five-game winning streak.
The Panthers led by seven early in the third quarter, then pulled away with a 19-2 run the rest of the way to carry a 24-point lead into the fourth.
“Last night we played Handley and … we ended up pulling that one out, so we had a bunch of confidence going into it,” Hatcher said. “I told them this can’t be one where you had an emotional game the night before and then you have a letdown.
“I think we came out a little bit flat on the defensive side, so we just addressed some defensive rotations that needed to take place, a few miscues, and they came out and executed much better the third quarter on the defensive end.”