DECATUR -- Quintez Cephus didn’t see the number 53 against Greenforest Christian.
Instead, he saw 7-foot-1, 6-9 and 6-9 -- the heights of the players on Greenforest’s front line.
Cephus, the junior who set Stratford’s single-game scoring record with 53 points Feb. 21 against Providence Christian, was held to single digits against an extraordinarily tall and talented Greenforest squad, which ran away with a 66-23 GHSA Class A private school quarterfinal victory Friday at Cedar Grove Middle School.
Second-seeded Greenforest (26-1) advances to face Athens Christian in Saturday’s semifinal round at Kennesaw State. Seventh-seeded Stratford finishes at 18-7 in its first season in the GHSA.
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“Honestly, in our league, there’s three teams, St. Francis, Athens Christian and Greenforest, that are at a very elite level,” Stratford head coach Jamie Dickey said. “We were glad to be in the state tournament, we were glad to win that playoff game, but I felt like if you weren’t (seeds) four or five, then you were going to see one, two or three in the second round. And, honestly, for a lot of teams, if you run into a St. Francis or a Greenforest or an Athens Christian, your season is probably over. They’re that good.
“We want to become one of those programs one day, and we’re not that far away. But we knew it was going to be tough.”
There was little opportunity for Stratford to operate the offense it wanted to run. Greenforest’s big men -- at least half of the varsity lineup is 6-6 or taller -- used a halfcourt man defense that made passing the basketball an incredibly difficult task.
Greenforest held Stratford to nine points -- three field goals and three free throws -- in the first half, with Cephus scoring his only basket of the first half early in the second quarter. He finished with six points.
“I thought we had a good game plan,” Dickey said. “I thought they played hard, and they tried to execute. But when that team is that big, that talented and that fast, it’s going to make it hard to do the things you want to do.”
Despite the dominant defensive performance, Greenforest’s first half was far from perfect. The team hit just 9-of-22 shots from the field and led by only 14 before the break, missing several open shots.
The basket opened up for Greenforest in the second half, with Justin Forrest, the son of former Georgia Tech star James Forrest, hitting eight 3-pointers for a game-high 24 points after going 0-of-4 in the first half.
John Ogwuche added 15 for Greenforest. O’Showen Williams paced Stratford with 14 points.
“Our defense carried us the entire game,” Greenforest head coach Nick Lagroone said. “We didn’t have many points to prove that in the first half, but the defense did set the tone. Our guards got in some foul trouble in the first half, and once they came back in to speed the tempo up, that allowed us to get some more easy shots.”