For three quarters, the Wildcats struggled, but a fourth-quarter rally was enough for them to come away with a 38-37 victory.
"They fought," said Mackey, whose team trailed by as many as 11 points early in the fourth quarter. "I thought we played good defense, even though we were down. We never quit. We just kept battling. We had a lot of turnovers. We had a lot of missed shots. We had a lot of miscues, but instead of folding, we played hard and hung in there. We finally got a couple of shots to fall there at the end."
The Wildcats (5-4) tied the game at 34 on a 3-pointer by Dakota Mabry with 3:45 to go. The shot seemed to rejuvenate the Wildcats down the stretch, while the Panthers (5-3) were left searching for answers.
"Didn't deserve to win," a frustrated Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said following the game.
After Mabry's 3-pointer, Spring Garden responded with a rebound and putback by Jay Prater, putting the Panthers back in front 36-34 with 2:49 on the clock.
Sean Stansell countered for the Wildcats by making a pair of free throws with 2:39 left to tie the game again at 36, but Spring Garden's Josh Hale was sent to the line following a foul at the 1:30 mark. Hale made the first shot, but missed the second, keeping Spring Garden's lead at a single point at 37-36.
Sand Rock burned some clock and called timeout with 27.6 seconds to go. Following the timeout, Dylan Mackey sliced through the lane and connected on a layup with 18.6 seconds left. He was also fouled on the play, sending him to the line for a chance at a 3-point play.
Dylan Mackey's free throw clanked off the rim, which was rebounded by the Panthers' Jake Grogan.
Spring Garden took a timeout with 11.5 seconds to go to set up its offense. Following the timeout, however, the Panthers' Logan Whorton was called for a charge driving to the basket, giving the ball back to Sand Rock with 1.1 seconds left.
All the Wildcats needed to do was in-bound the ball to run out the clock, but Dylan Mackey was called for an intentional foul on the in-bounds play, sending Hale to the line for two shots.
"We took the charge, then all we had to do was in-bound it," Coach Mackey said. "Dylan was posting him (Hale), and I didn't see anything wrong, but the ref told him to stop it, then he said Dylan grabbed his shirt and he called an intentional foul."
Hale missed both free throws, but still had a chance to win with possession of the ball. Grogan took a pass in the paint, but his jumper missed the mark at the buzzer, allowing Sand Rock to escape with the victory.
"We were expecting a lob to (Will) Westbrook," Coach Mackey said. "It caught us by surprise. They spun a guy (Grogan) to the middle to lob it to him. He was wide open, but the bucket didn't fall."
Dylan Mackey led the Wildcats with 19 points, four steals, a rebound and an assist. Mabry added 11 points, five boards and a steal. Chase Garrett contributed six points, five rebounds, two assists and a block.
Hale topped Spring Garden's scorers with 12 points. He also posted six boards and three steals. Grogan had six points and seven rebounds. Whorton also had seven boards. Will Ivey finished with five points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists.
The Panthers held a 14-12 lead at the end of the first quarter and stretched their lead to 21-15 at halftime. Spring Garden pushed its advantage to 31-23 at the end of the third quarter.
"We kept it close the first half and tied it at 23 in the third quarter, but then Dylan picked up his third foul, and I pulled him the rest of the quarter," Coach Mackey said. "Spring Garden played well. They stretched it to 31-23 at the end of the third, and they had chances to put it away, but we hung in there."
Sand Rock girls 32, Spring Garden girls 23
SAND ROCK - A point of emphasis for Sand Rock girls basketball coach Lisa Bates at practice following a 7-point loss to Sylvania last Monday was defending against the 3-point shot.
In the Sylvania game, the Lady Wildcats gave up 10 3-pointers.
On Saturday, Sand Rock welcomed another team that loves to shoot the outside shots in county rival Spring Garden. Behind what Bates called a much improved defensive effort, the Lady Wildcats claimed a 32-23 victory.
"We've been really hounding our defense, and they stepped it up tonight and played much better," Bates said. "We were trying to work on what they were going to do all week, so they kind of expected what kind of game it was going to be. I was proud of them for perservering on defense."
Sand Rock (8-3) held Spring Garden (6-5) without a double-digit scorer and to just one made 3-pointer by Emory Reedy with 2:01 left in the game.
"It was a very defensive game," Bates said. "We'll take a win against a good, solid team like Spring Garden. The second half, we held them to nine points. I thought we did a pretty good job defending the three. We knew they could really shoot the three. They (Spring Garden) played really good defense on us and we had a really hard time scoring for a long time, but we finally hit some buckets to pull ahead."
A frustrated Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin called the game a "blown opportunity" for the Lady Panthers.
The two teams battled to a 6-all tie at the end of the first quarter and a 14-all tie at halftime. Sand Rock was able to get some separation in the third, going on a 6-2 run to take a 20-16 lead into the fourth.
The Lady Wildcats went on a 12-7 run in the fourth for the final.
Madison McCullough led the Lady Wildcats with 10 points, four rebounds, and a steal. Madison Smith added seven points, six boards, two blocks and an assist. Leslie Mackey tallied six points, four boards, two steals and an assist. Courtney Rowe finished with six points, four rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.
Auburn Kirk led Spring Garden with six points. Reedy added five points. Tykeah Leek had four points and eight rebounds. Haley Motes and Tori Pierce also finished with four points apiece.