Skyline ends Spring Garden boys’ basketball season in Northeast Regional final

Spring Garden’s John Welsh drives to the basket against Skyline in the Class 1A Northeast Regional final on Monday in Jacksonville. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

JACKSONVILLE – Just moments after the Spring Garden boys’ basketball season ended against Skyline on Monday in the Class 1A Northeast Regional in Jacksonville, Panther head coach Levi Hatcher joked with Skyline senior guard Bryant Kennamer when the two teams shook hands.

He was a thorn in the third-ranked Panthers’ side almost the entire contest.

“I told him after the game I’m glad to see you leave,” Hatcher said. “I don’t think he has a weakness. He knows when to speed up. He knows when to slow down. He knows how to get his teammates in the right spots. If you get out and pressure him he can get by you. If you back off he can shoot it. He’s got a lot of good qualities and traits about him. It makes him a deadly player.”

That ‘deadly player’ scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists in leading the fifth-ranked Vikings to a 58-51 victory. Kennamer claimed the Northeast Regional Most Valuable Player for his efforts, but more importantly, helped the Vikings (26-4) clinch just the second Final Four berth in Skyline boys basketball history and first since 1994.

Spring Garden’s season ends at 27-5.

“We told the guys in the locker room this is one of those moments you hate because you enjoy your team so much you enjoy being able to come to work every day with them,” Hatcher said. “There are seasons where you kind of can’t wait for the season to end, because you’ve got some chemistry (issues) or whatever the case is, that it’s just not fun, but that’s not the case with this group. From the time the scorers tables got rolled out after volleyball we were excited and I was ready to go.

“We had a great season. I love these guys. We just hate to see it come to an end like it did.”

But Spring Garden didn’t go down without a fight.

Down 14-9 at the end of the first quarter, Spring Garden rallied in the second to trail 23-21 at halftime.

After falling behind by as many as 12 points late in the third quarter, the Panthers managed to cut their deficit to five at 48-43 with 2:52 left in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Noah Barber.

Barber hit the only other Spring Garden trey with 31.3 seconds remaining, but by that point Skyline already had the game in hand.

“We talked about in the locker room the fight never left us,” Hatcher said. “We just kept fighting and clawing. We got a couple of steals, hit a couple of threes with Noah. We kept it within striking distance. We fought all the way to the end.”

John Welsh led the Panthers with 17 points. He also had five rebounds, three steals and an assist. Jake Welsh added 11 points, 11 boards, four assists and a steal. Barber rang for 10 points for Spring Garden. Chapel Pope and Cole Bailey finished with six and five points respectively.

The Welsh twins were selected to the all-tournament team.

“The Welsh brothers are just studs,” Skyline coach Craig McGill said. “They play so, so hard and with so much passion and so much heart, but at the end of the day so do our guys here. They wanted it and I’m so happy for them.”

Zeier Golden came away with 12 points, four boards, three assists and a block for Skyline. Jayton Prince posted 11 points and Scott York finished with eight points.

York and Golden joined Kennamer from Skyline on the all-tournament team.

Even though the Panthers fell short of joining the Lady Panthers in next week’s Final Four, they still saw progress this season nonetheless.

And with much of the lineup returning for the 2024-25 season, the future appears bright.

“Last year at the end of the season when we got beat (in sub-regionals), Coach Hatcher told us you can feel this way again or do something about it,” John Welsh said. “We did something about it. We got two games farther than we did last year. Maybe we can do the same thing next year and build upon this.”

Spring Garden’s Jake Welch shoots inside the paint against Skyline on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.


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