Spring Garden girls survive tough challenge from Skyline, advance back to Birmingham

Spring Garden’s Maggie Jarrett spots up for a 3-pointer against Skyline in the Class 1A girls Northeast Regional final on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

JACKSONVILLE – Top-ranked Spring Garden got its toughest challenge to date this season within the Class 1A girls basketball ranks Monday against No. 2 Skyline. The Lady Vikings held a six-point lead at the end of the first quarter and a one-point advantage at halftime.

But the defending state champion Lady Panthers were able to withstand Skyline’s best punch and come away victorious.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Ace Austin netted 19 points, dished out nine assists, grabbed three rebounds, blocked two shots and had a steal, but it was junior forward Maggie Jarrett who played a pivotal role for the Lady Panthers.

Jarrett, an all-tournament selection, tossed in 18 points, including three 3-pointers, to help Spring Garden earn a 51-38 victory that sends them back to the Final Four in Birmingham.

The Lady Panthers (31-1) will take on South Regional champion Elba in the 1A state semifinals at noon on Feb. 26. Skyline’s season ends at 22-8.

“Coming into this (game), Coach Rat (Ricky Austin) said it was going to be a battle, so I came in knowing I had to do the best I could to help the team out,” Jarrett said.

Jarrett didn’t let Coach Austin down.

“People kind of say we’ll pick our poison and won’t guard Maggie. We forced her to shoot the ball and make plays,” Coach Austin said. “She made a three early and a three late. They were huge for us, and her defense and rebounding are just really, really great.”

Speaking of defense, Spring Garden delivered an outstanding performance in that department also.

Ace Austin held Skyline’s best overall player Kaina King to just six points. She credited her older brothers (Riley and Cooper) for helping her defend against King at practice.

“My brothers stay on me real hard. They said ‘I better not see your girl score in double digits,’” she joked. “At practice when we scrimmaged, my brother Cooper was her and I think that helped me. Going against my brothers, I’m not going to let them score any. I think scrimmaging really helped me. We played her last year and we eliminated her left hand. I think that was the key.”

Eliminating King’s left hand was key again on Monday.

“They took her left hand away and pushed her right,” Skyline coach Craig McGill said. “We knew that and we prepared for it. I thought they had a lot of help on Kaina. Even when she got by Ace, there was (Chloe) Rule standing right there.

“Kaina did a great job facilitating today. We knew that’s what it was going to take, but I should have done a better job of getting her a couple of more shots. That’s on me.”

With King taken out of her game, that meant other Lady Vikings had to step up, and they did in the first half. Brinlee Potts and Audra Bellamy connected on a pair of 3-pointers apiece in the first quarter as Skyline built a 14-8 advantage.

Once Spring Garden made a few tweaks, the Lady Panthers were able to cut their deficit to a single point at halftime at 24-23.

Spring Garden then outscored Skyline 15-9 in the third to take a 38-33 advantage, and went on a 13-5 run in the fourth for the final.

“That’s what a championship game is supposed to look like,” Coach Austin said. “The biggest concern of Skyline coming in was exactly what we saw, that their role players would play very well. They had some role players shoot the ball extremely well. Their head coach’s strategy, he runs set plays very well. We had a whole book of set plays and we didn’t see any of them. He had a whole new set today. I was worried about that coming in. Their defense is really good. They do a great job of rotating around.”

But to Coach Austin’s relief, it wasn’t quite enough to defeat the Lady Panthers.

Olivia Law added six points, seven boards and three steals for Spring Garden. Rule, an all-tournament selection, finished with five points and seven rebounds.

Potts paced the Lady Vikings with 13 points, including three treys. She also pulled down seven boards. Bellomy had eight points. Blakely Stucky finished with five points and three assists.

Potts and King were all-tournament selections from Skyline.

“I told our girls before we went out there just make sure they’re the better team. Don’t leave anything on the line. Just make sure they’re the better team,” McGill said.

“Everybody knows how good they are offensively, but Coach Austin and them do a fantastic job defensively. I’m super proud of my girls, but hat’s off to Spring Garden.”

Spring Garden’s Ace Austin splits a pair of Skyline defenders on her way to the basket in their Class 1A Northeast Regional game at Pete Mathews Coliseum in Jacksonville on Monday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email
Share on print