Dandy Dozen: Garden girls win 12th consecutive area basketball title

Spring Garden’s Libby Brown spots up to shoot a 3-pointer from the corner against Cedar Bluff on Monday evening in the Class 1A, Area 12 girls basketball tournament. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

SPRING GARDEN – There’s plenty of banners hanging on the walls of Dale Welsh Gymnasium at Spring Garden. One of those banners lists the Lady Panthers’ area championships.

On Monday evening, Spring Garden was going for an incredible 12th consecutive area title.

Behind shooting guard Libby Brown’s six 3-pointers and point guard Ace Austin’s four treys, the top-ranked Lady Panthers kept that streak going in convincing fashion with a 69-14 victory over Cedar Bluff.

The win was also No. 749 for girls head coach Ricky Austin.

Wins are the culture in the Garden. The last time the Lady Panthers didn’t claim an area championship was 2012.

“That puts some of these girls in kindergarten and first grade,” Coach Austin said. “That’s crazy. We’re very blessed to have a group to get something done like that. It just makes me numb when I think about it. That’s crazy to know that streak has been that long. We’re very blessed to be in a position to do that.”

Brown made sure the year 2024 would be etched on the area championship banner early on.

Five of her treys came in the first quarter, in which the Lady Panthers (28-1) led 31-2. She finished with a game-high 26 points and earned a spot on the all-tournament team.

“I thought she was a spark for us tonight,” Coach Austin said. “She’s got one of the prettiest, quickest releases of a girl I’ve seen in a long time.

“I’m proud of her. She’s becoming a really, really good basketball player, not just a shooter. She did shoot the ball well tonight, but she’s really starting to do some other things defensively and running the lane in transition. She’s doing some things that way that goes along with her shooting the ball well. It’s really making her into a really well-rounded player.”

Ace Austin, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, said she loves when Brown gets hot.

“When I’m on the court I’m like ‘Where’s Libby? Let me get the ball to Libby,’” Ace said. “It’s always good to have that other (guard) out there like Libby. When she’s hot she’s hot. That’s who I’m going to look for.”

Ace didn’t have too shabby of a night shooting herself. The Alabama commitment scored 18 points. She also had six steals, five rebounds and four assists.

Not bad for someone who wasn’t sure she was going to play in the area tournament. She suffered a deep bone bruise on her left arm in the Lady Panthers’ regular season finale against Oxford.

“I told people she wasn’t going to play,” Coach Austin said. “She went to therapy Friday night and the trainer was like ‘I really need her to play.’ That was part of the healing process and he was right. I’m proud she gutted it out. She looked straight ahead and didn’t think about her injury. I thought she played a lot stronger with it tonight. She just showed some toughness. We’re pleased with that.”

Ace said she knew in her mind what she wanted to do and was determined to do it.

“I don’t ever want to miss a game,” she said. “Our whole school is tough. When we get knocked down, we’re going to get back up.”

Maggie Jarrett added seven points, seven assists, six steals, three blocks and three rebounds for Spring Garden. Maggie Reedy and Avery Steward both finished with five points.

Jarrett, along with Chloe Rule and Olivia Law, joined Brown and Ace Austin on the all-tournament team from Spring Garden.

Kylie Vadon led No. 8 Cedar Bluff (20-11) with seven points. She was also selected on the all-tournament team. Caley Bruce finished with four points for the Lady Tigers.

Both teams advance to sub-regional action on Friday. Spring Garden will host the runner-up from Tuesday’s Area 8 championship game between Wadley and Winterboro. Cedar Bluff will travel to the Area 8 winner.

“I think we are playing pretty good, but I still think we can get even higher,” Ace said. “I do believe we have some better ball ahead of us. That’s what we’re going to have to bring.”

The Class 1A, Area 12 Girls All-tournament selections included, from left, Spring Garden’s Ace Austin (MVP), Libby Browb, Chloe Rule, Maggie jarrett, Olivia Law and Cedar Bluff’s Kylie Vadon. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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