KENNESAW -- Stratford’s first trip to the basketball semifinals since its return to the GHSA started with a resounding thud.
The game started with a technical foul on the Eagles for a uniform violation, which gave St. Francis a head start. Stratford never caught up the rest of the night, with St. Francis running away for a 61-41 win in the Class A private school playoffs at Kennesaw State.
“They’re the No. 1 team in the state,” Eagles head coach Ed Smith said. “They’re big, they’re fast, they’ve got shooters. I thought we competed very well.”
Stratford could not contend with the much larger lineup fielded by St. Francis, which included 6-foot-3 sophomore Maya Dodson, 6-2 sophomore Kasiyahna Kushkituah and 6-2 junior Yasmine Ratliff, daughter of ex-NBA standout Theo Ratliff.
“They have a lot of size,” Smith said. “It’s not just one girl, either. They run about four of them out there.”
St. Francis led 5-4 early when it went on an 8-0 run. The Knights finished the quarter with an 13-2 spurt to take an 18-6 lead after one period. Despite falling behind by as many as 15, Stratford was behind only 10 points at the half.
St. Francis put any comeback hopes to rest by scoring the first eight points of the third quarter, and the Eagles never got any closer than 14.
“They fought to the end, but with that much size and speed, it’s kind of tough,” Smith said.
Stratford (22-7) was led by Lucy Bobbitt with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, and 10 points from Bonnie Jarrard.
The Knights (27-3) were led by sophomore Nichel Tampa, who scored 17 points, all in the second half. They also got 13 points from Dodson and 12 from Kushkituah.
Despite the elimination, Smith was pleased that the team extended its season to the semifinal round.
“I tell them, there is a payoff for working hard,” Smith said. “You always want a chance to play the best, and I think we got that opportunity (Saturday).”