“I’m very encouraged with our boys. Even though we’re 0-4, I feel that if we had had our whole team all year long and we would have been healthy, I believe every game would have been very, very competitive and I don’t think our record would be 0-4 right now,” Austin said. “I think we’d have gotten a win or two along the way somewhere.”
Cohesiveness seems to have been the biggest issue early on. The Panthers played without senior Will Westbrook and eighth-grader Riley Austin during much of their summer work due to injuries. Austin was cleared to play by the start of the season but Westbrook didn’t return to practice until December 4. Westbrook practiced the 4th and 5th then played at Collinsville on December 6.
Classmates Jacob Black, Will Ivey and Jay Prater join Westbrook for their final season of Spring Garden basketball. This year’s Panthers have no juniors. Tanner Parker is the lone sophomore. Dawson Broome, Ben Ivey, Dakota Lambert and Joe Rogers are freshmen.
“We’re built to get better and be ready to win at the end of the season. Friday night was the first time we stepped all of our players on the court at the same time,” Austin said.
The game at Collinsville Friday went to Collinsville by a narrow 49-48 count. Jay Prater led Spring Garden with 15 points, netting five of his seven 3-point attempts. Prater also had four rebounds. Westbrook finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and four steals. Jacob Black had eight points and four rebounds. Point guard Will Ivey recorded six points, four assists and two steals. Dakota Lambert had four points and Ben Ivey three points.
Spring Garden opened the season on November 25 with a 62-35 loss at Gaston. Nine players played for the Panthers and all nine scored. Will Ivey led with nine points and Joe Rogers scored six points.
On November 29, Spring Garden played two games at Crossville in a one-day classic tournament. The first game resulted in a 79-55 loss to Class 4A North Jackson. Eight of nine Panthers scored led by Will Ivey with 19 points and Dakota Lambert with 18 points.
In the late game, 4A Crossville defeated Spring Garden 61-35. Will Ivey again led in scoring with 12 points. Black and Ben Ivey each had six points.
“Even in all of our losses, some of them big losses, we had some moments where we competed well with some young guys,” Austin said. “We lost by one at Collinsville Friday night. That’s encouraging. We had opportunities to win that game down the stretch.”