Stingy Defense leads Spring Garden Past Elba in AHSAA Class 1A Girls’ Semifinal

104th AHSAA State Basketball Championships

By Josh Bean | For the AHSAA

BIRMINGHAM – Defending Class 1A girls’ state champion Spring Garden High School definitely brought its defense to the BJCC’s Legacy Arena.

The Panthers (32-1) shut out Elba (28-5) in the first half of Monday’s Class 1A girls’ state semifinal, leading 21-0 after the first quarter and 41-0 at halftime. The lead grew to 44-0 before Elba’s Anastasia Caldwell made a layup with 6:30 to go in the third quarter, and Spring Garden emptied its bench in the fourth quarter in the 62-16 win.

“I’m obviously proud of our defense,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said.

The Panthers fell just shy of the AHSAA state tournament girls’ record for fewest points allowed, set by T.R. Miller when the Tigers beat Douglas 46-13 in 2022.

Elba’s Nyasia McCullough attempts a shot as Spring Garden players rush to defend. (AHSAA Photo | David Holtsford)

Asked if he could ever remember a first-half shutout, Ricky Austin noted his own team scored just four points in the first half in a 2015 state semifinal game. “I don’t remember a zero, though,” he said.

Spring Garden advances to Thursday’s title game against Marion County, which defeated Keith in the other semifinal and advance to the championship for the fourth straight season. Tip-off is set for Thursday at 4 p.m.

Click here to check out the full 2024 AHSAA State Finals schedule & results. 

Alabama commit Ace Austin led Spring Garden with 22 points ,10 rebounds, seven assists and five steals against Elba. Chloe Rule and Libby Brown added 14 points apiece. Nyasia McCullough led Elba with eight points.

Elba missed all 10 of its shots from the field and three free throws in the first half while committing 23 turnovers. The Tigers finished 8-for-36 from the field and 0-for-9 from the free throw line.

Tigers coach Shaun Hammonds noted Elba set a single-season school record with 28 wins and had a school-record 19-game winning streak in 2023-24.

“One game doesn’t tell the story for a team,” he said. “Hate we ended it the way we did, but we all know Spring Garden is the cream of the crop.”

All semifinal games are being live streamed over the NFHS Network’s subscriber-based platform and live on the AHSAA TV Network. Check out the cable stations on the network at All championship games will be televised live statewide over Alabama Public Television and will also be live streamed over the NFHS Network.

Cover Photo: Spring Garden’s Ace Austin (1) goes up for a bucket in the 1A semifinals as Elba’s Brooke Tinsley (1) defends. (AHSAA Photo | David Holtsford)