Stratford head coach Jamie Dickey and his top player had an important conversation Friday.
It was one of those conversations designed to get a team into playoff mode. Simply put, Dickey put the team in Quintez Cephus’ hands and told him to take over.
“I told him, ‘We go as you go. You have my support, 100 percent,’ ” Dickey said. “That relaxed him.”
Cephus certainly took his game to another level in Saturday’s opening round of the GHSA Class A private school playoffs. He scored a program-record 53 points in a 95-80 home win over Providence Christian.
Up next for Stratford is a quarterfinal game Wednesday at Greenforest Christian, a 103-31 winner over Southwest Atlanta Christian. Greenforest is the No. 2 seed, while Stratford is seeded seventh.
Cephus eclipsed by seven points a mark that had been held by Frank Morrison since the early 1970s and tied a decade later by Richard Young.
“I got a good feeling from my teammates,” said Cephus, who hit eight 3-pointers. “They were scrapping. There was good energy, good enthusiasm. The team made it happen.”
Stratford (18-6) needed every bit of Cephus’ production.
The Eagles led by just three at the half, and it took a 10-2 run midway through the third quarter that included a three-point play and a 3-pointer from Cephus for the Eagles to go up by double figures.
Providence (18-10) started the game with an 8-0 lead, but Stratford responded with five straight 3-pointers, including three from Cephus.
Cephus had 23 points at halftime and 38 at the end of the third quarter. He tied the program record with a basket from the elbow with 5:37 to go, and he broke the record with a three-point play with 4:53 to go.
The record wasn’t acknowledged until after the game.
“They’re a good team, and we wanted a track meet,” Dickey said. “We thought Providence could run with us, and it turned into a game of runs, a lot of runs in the second half. I felt comfortable with what we were doing in the fourth quarter.”
James Mitchell added 13 for Stratford. Steven Kleinschmidt and Jeremy Hardnett scored 22 and 20 points, respectively, for Providence.