Quintez Cephus opened with spectacular.
His finish? All business.
The Stratford junior made a couple of spectacular moves at the start of Tuesday’s GHSA Region 7A-A boys basketball game at FPD. But it was a rally-killing 3-pointer, as well as six made free throws in the final three minutes, that allowed the Eagles to walk away with a 73-59 victory.
“We played well at times, and we struggled at times,” Cephus said. “With five minutes to go, when Coach (Jamie Dickey) called timeout, he told me I needed to step up and just go at it. And we ended up pulling it out at the end.”
Cephus finished with 41 points. He started the game with a pair of dunks off passes from O’Showen Williams that got Stratford (10-3, 2-0 Region 7A-A) off to a fast start, but the points down the stretch wound up being just as important.
Stratford, which played the first half at an intense pace, took a 14-point lead into the final quarter. The game slowing down a bit, however, and FPD was challenging the Eagles’ efforts to score inside.
FPD (3-6, 0-2) opened the fourth quarter on a 13-6 run, with freshman Champ Dawson scoring 10 of those points, to cut Stratford’s lead to 60-53 with 3:31 to go.
“I thought the past two games, I’ve challenged him to grow up a bit and play hard,” FPD head coach Michael Walton said of Dawson, who finished with 27 points. “I thought he did that all game long. He was comfortable from the beginning, which is scary because he’s a freshman, but he’s a great ballplayer. Game by game, he gets a little better.”
With easy access to the paint cut off, Stratford set up Cephus outside. He nailed a 3-pointer with 2:51 to go, cutting off FPD’s rally.
FPD tried to keep things close, drawing to within seven again with 1:53 remaining, but Cephus kept making free throws. He made six of his final eight free-throw attempts to close out the victory.
“We came out with a lot of energy, and I was worried about that after a big win last Friday,” Dickey said in reference to the Eagles’ win at Wilkinson County. “I was wanting to see how our kids would respond coming off such a big, big win. And they responded really well. They executed against their zone.”
After a bit of a slow start, Stratford took control of the girls game in the second quarter, pulling away for a 40-23 victory.
Trailing 6-3 after eight minutes, Stratford (11-3, 2-0) put on a fullcourt press at the start of the second quarter. The Eagles took full control from there, outscoring FPD 14-3 in the second quarter and again in the third.
Stratford’s Taylor Reese led all scorers with 19 points, with 11 coming in the second quarter. She also had nine rebounds.
Kate Patterson and Sydney Reese each had eight points to pace FPD (2-7, 1-1).