Meeting multiple times in a single season is nothing new for the Stratford and Tattnall Square girls basketball teams.
Both teams were regulars in the GISA Class AAA playoffs, meaning three and even four games in a season between the rivals isn’t uncommon.
Their meeting Tuesday, however, will be quite different. This will be their first meeting in the GHSA Class A private school playoffs, a quarterfinal at Tattnall that will move the winner closer to a possible state finals appearance at the Macon Coliseum.
“It’s a big game,” Tattnall head coach Todd Whetsel said. “There’s a reason Stratford wins 20 a year and makes deep runs in the playoffs every year. They’re a good team and well-coached. We’re glad to have this opportunity, and we’re at home, so hopefully we can take advantage of that.”
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Tattnall (27-2) has won 21 straight, a streak that includes three wins over Stratford. But the visiting Eagles (21-6) just defeated Our Lady of Mercy, the team that handed the Trojans their most recent loss, back in December in Strong Rock’s holiday tournament.
“They’re relentless,” Stratford head coach Ed Smith said of Tattnall. “They just keep coming at you. After we won the (GISA) region last year, they had something to prove, and they’ve shown how hungry they are. To this point of the season, with what they have accomplished, they deserve a lot of credit.”
What makes Tuesday’s matchup intriguing, aside from the local rivalry factor, is the way the teams are made up. Tattnall uses a balanced approach, with three or four players able to take command, while Stratford relies a little more on Taylor Reese in the post while also maintaining some diversity in its offense.
Tattnall had three different players who were the leading scorers in the first three games against Stratford. Reese, meanwhile, was the team’s leading scorer in the first two meetings against the Trojans and was among multiple players with six points apiece in the Feb. 14 Region 7-A final.
“We’ve seen this team since we were all in middle school, and it’s basically the same team,” Stratford’s Lucy Bobbitt said. “We pretty much know about every single girl, and we know how to play every single girl. It’s just a matter of if we can go out and execute the way we need to.”
The three previous meetings were relatively close. Stratford was held to 21 points in an 11-point loss Jan. 10, but the Eagles were more competitive in a 44-38 loss Jan. 27 and a 45-37 defeat in the region title game.
Tuesday’s winner will take on either top-seeded St. Francis or No. 8 Mount Paran in the semifinals Saturday at Kennesaw State’s Convocation Center.
“I think the pressure is squarely on (Tattnall),” Smith said. “They’ve got to do it four times in a row. They’re very talented, but the games have been fairly competitive. We’ve had two or three minutes each game where we let it get away. We know we have to play 32 minutes against that team. They’re too talented to have those lapses. I expect it to be a good game.”