When Stratfords Jonathan Hefner caught a long pass from Douglas Bradley early in the fourth quarter Friday at Mount de Sales, he finished the scoring play with a two-handed dunk, giving the Eagles a 14-point lead.
As comfortable as the lead appeared at the time, Stratford ended up needing the advantage.
The Cavaliers attacked the paint throughout the night, and it paid off, especially in the fourth quarter. Mount de Sales got to the foul line multiple times throughout the final eight minutes of the game, getting all but one of its scores from the line to trail by as few as seven points before the Eagles made enough of their own free-throw attempts to win 63-55.
The Eagles wrap up the regular season with a record of 23-2 with the Cavaliers dropping to 14-9, heading into next weeks GISA Region 2-AAA tournament that will be hosted by Mount de Sales.
They made it tough on our defense; they attacked the rim really hard. They attacked the rim, and we put them on the free-throw line. We just fouled too much in the second half, Stratford head coach Jamie Dickey said. Give credit to Mount de Sales, they were being real aggressive taking us off the dribble. They are very athletic, and we had a hard time keeping them in front of us. We kept on putting our hands on them, bumping them and putting them on the free-throw line.
Mount de Sales was 9-of-14 from the line in the fourth quarter, and foul shots by Brandon Corbin, Addison Barth and Carson Leatherwood trimmed the Stratford lead to 58-50 during a stretch that also included an offensive putback by Darius Wonnum.
The Eagles answered, first on a baseline layup by Bradley followed by a pair of free throws by Quintez Cephus to extend the Stratford lead to 62-53 with 1:01 to play.
Cephus, who scored 16 for the Eagles, did most of his damage near the basket, driving into the paint for layups on a night in which Stratford didnt hit a 3-point shot. Bradley added 15 for Stratford.
Our game plan is to defend, rebound and run, Dickey said. If we are hitting it from the outside, thats is great. But we have other parts of the game that we can score with.
Mount de Sales was led by Wonnums 11 points and engaged in a back-and-forth game throughout the first half with the lead swapping hands multiple times in the second quarter. Stratford headed into halftime ahead 34-28 following a buzzer-beating jumper by Trevor Hill.
Stratford got some cushion in the third quarter, going on a 9-3 run with D.J. Boyd scoring six of the points.
The Stratford girls came away with a win, as well, holding Mount de Sales in single digits until the second half as the Eagles won 45-24.
Taylor Reese led a balanced effort with eight points and Mary Wilson Avant had seven. Clarissa Perkins scored 11 to lead the Cavaliers.