By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
SPRING GARDEN – Spring Garden junior point guard Ace Austin suffered a scary fall and a deep bone bruise to her left arm in the Lady Panthers’ regular-season finale against Oxford on Tuesday.
Since that game, Austin has been trying her best to rehab it for postseason play.
Her father and head coach Ricky Austin didn’t think Ace would recover enough to play in the Lady Panthers’ Class 1A, Area 12 tournament opener against Jacksonville Christian on Saturday, but she did.
And she was the Ace Austin of old.
With a padded sleeve on her left arm, the Alabama commitment sank three 3-pointers in the first quarter. She finished with 11 points, eight assists, seven steals and five rebounds as the Lady Panthers routed the Thunder 88-19 to advance to Monday’s area title game at 5 p.m. against Cedar Bluff.
Ace and her father/coach gave credit to Jacksonville State University head trainer Mike Polasik for her quick recovery.
“We have a lot of respect for him and are thankful for him,” Ace said. “He’s done some miracle things on (brothers) Cooper and Riley (Austin), which I don’t think many people could play through. He’s very special to us. I don’t know where we’d be without him.”
Ace’s therapy has included shock wave treatment.
“It really gets your wrist and all the muscles in it going,” Ace said. “I did some two-pound dumbbells with it, just flicking my wrist up and down. I think it’s helped my shot actually. It feels good.
“They always say if you get knocked down get back up. That’s what’s been going through my mind.”
Coach Austin said Ace’s shots “looked really good” Saturday night.
“Your left hand is really there to guide the ball. Sometimes you start getting funky and getting a thumb in it and pushing it off in the wrong place. That has limited that with her arm like it is, but I thought her shot looked real pure tonight.”
Coach Austin also said it didn’t surprise him Ace’s shot was back to form because of something else she’s been doing other than therapy.
“I’ve told her for years she needed to get in the gym and shoot one-handed a lot to fix her shot,” Coach Austin said. “The first day she was back (at practice) she didn’t touch a ball with her left hand. We had her probably shoot 200 one-handed shots – free throws, threes, everything. In the next day she started using two hands and her shot looked great again. It looked better than it did before she got hurt.
“I said ‘I told you. If you’d just listen to me, those one-handed shots will help a lot.’ I think now she’ll be in the gym shooting one-handed a lot more to keep her rhythm going.”
Ace wasn’t the only Lady Panther in rhythm on Saturday. Three other Spring Garden players scored in double figures. For the game, the Lady Panthers (27-1) connected on 16 3-pointers. They began Saturday’s semifinal game on a 17-0 run.
Kristen Lewis led the Lady Panthers with 16 points, including four treys three rebounds. Chloe Rule collected 12 points, three rebounds and a block. Libby Brown sank a pair of treys and had 12 points, seven assists, five steals and four rebounds.
Avery Steward added nine points on three treys to go along with three assists, two steals, a block and a rebound. Allie Mobbs managed eight points, 13 rebounds and two steals.
Lacie Jo McMurray scored six points two 3-pointers to go along with three assists, a rebound and a steal. Maggie Reedy also had six points on a pair of treys with three assists, a steal, a rebound and a block. Maggie Jarrett finished with six points, seven rebounds and two assists.
The Lady Panther defense only allowed three Jacksonville Christian players to score. Addy Grace Lee led the Thunder with 10 points. Katy Beth Hudson finished with seven points.
Cedar Bluff 58, Coosa Christian 35
SPRING GARDEN – Kylie Vadon scored 20 points and Za’Niya Kyle added 18 in Cedar Bluff’s 58-35 victory over Coosa Christian Saturday in the Class 1A, Area 12 basketball tournament at Spring Garden.
Vadon also had six steals, four boards, four assists and a block for the Lady Tigers (20-10). Kyle also collected and three rebounds. Caley Bruce posted 13 points, seven boards and a block. Ciana Smith finished with five points, eight rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
Natalie Delp led Coosa Christian with 14 points. Kemiyah Reynolds and Lexi Reeves both finished with five points.
Cedar Bluff built a 23-9 lead in the first quarter and held a 38-17 advantage at halftime. The Lady Tigers led 44-25 after three quarters.