Like most of the contenders in the GISA, Stratford hopes to play its final game of the season at Mercer’s Hawkins Arena.
So the Eagles relished the opportunity to test that gym out Friday a little more than a month before the GISA Class AAA championship.
After a slow start, Stratford looked the part of a championship contender, running away from Mount de Sales for a 57-36 win in Region 2-AAA play.
Quintez Cephus scored 19 points and pulled down 14 rebounds, including 13 in the first half, while D.J. Boyd added 11.
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“I thought we were taking pretty good shots (in the first half), just not a good touch,” Stratford head coach Jamie Dickey said. “Maybe that was depth perception or not used to the atmosphere, but we got it turned around in the second half. We shot it much better.”
Stratford (18-2, 2-0) missed its first six shots and shot 2-of-15 from the floor in the first quarter, the result of missing some open jumpers but also struggling some against a pesky Mount de Sales defense.
The Cavaliers (11-6, 1-1) also struggled from the floor -- both teams managed just five points in the first quarter -- but stayed close with physical and scrappy play. They led 14-11 with 2:39 left in the first half and were tied in the final minute before Cephus drained a 3-pointer at the end of the first half. It was an ominous sign for the Cavaliers.
Cephus and Boyd started converting on those looks in the second half, and the Cavaliers found themselves behind by double digits midway through the third quarter.
“I thought the first half was just an intensely played ballgame, and both teams just got after it,” Mount de Sales head coach Jim Massey said. “In the third quarter, they got a couple of quick turnovers and got some transition baskets off our turnovers, and that established their offensive rhythm. Once they establish their offensive rhythm, they are a handful. They’ve got some kids that can flat play.”
After a pair of free throws by Darius Wonnum -- Wonnum led Mount de Sales with eight points -- cut the Stratford lead to nine with 3:42 left in the third quarter, the Eagles’ offense couldn’t be stopped the rest of the game. After that, they outscored the Cavaliers 27-10 before Mount de Sales scored five points in the final 10 seconds of the game.
Cephus scored 12 points in the second half.
“I started off slow, but I started getting to the rack, to the hole and then ... the basket starting opening up wide so I could get my jump shot going,” he said
The Stratford girls (18-2, 1-0) rolled to a 40-17 win.
The Eagles, who were playing without their top scorer Taylor Reese because of the flu, outscored Mount de Sales 14-3 in the first quarter and led by 20 early in the second.
Lucy Bobbitt made five 3-pointers, leading Stratford with 19 points.