John Paul Gaddy will never count a team out during the postseason.
The Stratford head basketball coach certainly didn’t make that mistake against CFCA on Thursday in the first round of the GISA Class AAA tournament.
The Eagles (14-10) jumped out to a big early lead and then withstood a barrage of 3-pointers by the Lancers to pull away for a 65-53 win. Stratford will play George Walton in the quarterfinals at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Tattnall Square.
Sims Holmes led the Eagles with 17 points, while Tyler Gibson chipped in 15 points. Josh Sumrall led CFCA with 18 points.
“At this time of the year, nobody quits,” Gaddy said. “Everybody has seniors, and nobody is going to give up. We never thought CFCA would quit.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 14-point lead in the second quarter with the strong play of Gibson, who cut into the lane for layups on three possessions in one stretch.
The Lancers made multiple runs in the third quarter and eventually drew to within six points on a basket by Sumrall.
CFCA continued to cut into the lead and would get as close as three points on a 3-pointer by Justin Brown with 3:53 to play in the game. It was the Lancers’ third 3-pointer of the quarter.
“They hit a lot of shots,” Gaddy said. “They are a heck of a shooting ball team. You can start to get a little tired, but then you get even more tired when the other team starts making shots.”
The Lancers never got closer than the three points. They scored five points over the final two minutes, while the Eagles responded two baskets in transition to both of the Lancers’ made field goals. They added four free throws and made one more basket to pull away.
CFCA cut into Stratford’s sizeable first-half lead with its long-range shooting, as well. The Lancers made three 3-pointers in a short span to turn the Eagles’ 14-point lead into a nine-point deficit.
“You just hope they miss more than they make,” Gaddy said. “I don’t think our defensive effort was where it needed to be, but they deserve credit. They hit a lot of shots.”