The girls race in GHSA Region 7A-1A is heating up, and the Stratford Eagles are right in the thick of the battle for the No. 1 seed for the region tournament.
The Eagles (14-5, 6-2 Region 7A-1A) host Wilkinson County (11-10, 6-2) in a key matchup Tuesday.
While Wilkinson County has had a resurgence after a couple of down years, Stratford has been in the thick of the race almost every year since it moved to the GHSA. But the success this year has been impressive.
“We have graduated nine seniors in the last two years so we are extremely young as far as experience goes,” Stratford head coach Ed Smith said. “Right now we are only playing seven girls, and two of those are freshmen, so some nights we are very good, and other nights we aren’t as good. We are just working on competing at a high level every single night.”
Stratford could have been in control of the sub-region because Wilkinson County lost to FPD on Friday night, but Stratford lost to Tattnall Square on the same night. That puts Stratford, FPD and Wilkinson County in a three way tie for the sub-region lead. Stratford was down by 16 points early in the fourth quarter against Tattnall Square but made it a game before losing by six.
The first tiebreaker in the race to the No. 1 seed is head-to-head, and the second tiebreaker is winning percentage for all Class 1A games.
“We can’t wait to play with some emotion until we are down by 16, and that’s what we did Friday night,” Smith said. “In this region, you have to play well from the start to the finish, or you will get beat. We are still at that point to where we are growing up a little bit every game.”
Stratford does not have anyone who averages in double figures in scoring, but Smith feels like he does have offensive weapons.
“We have had seven girls score in double figures during the season, but we don’t have that consistent game to game scorer,” Smith said. “Evans McCook is around nine points a game and is very capable, and Carey Woodcock is a definite scorer but doesn’t always play with a scorer’s mentality. These are things we are continuing to work on.”
Smith had high praise for his lone senior, Aysha Roberts.
“Aysha has always been a great defender, but she has been able to score for us this year, too,” Smith said. “She hit some huge shots for us in our win against FPD, and when she is confident on the offensive side, she is very good. But we get great defense and leadership from her every game.”
Smith is hoping that one trait that his basketball team has showed this year will continue Tuesday night.
“We have not played poorly two straight games yet this year and we have bounced back with wins after every loss,” Smith said. “We are hoping to have that continue this Tuesday against a very good Wilkinson County team.”