Stratford holds off late Southland charge

Stratford didn’t get to play at its own pace Thursday in its own gym.

Southland slowed the game down, dictating the speed it would be played.

But the Eagles showed they can succeed despite not being allowed to play at their usual pace.

Stratford got some breathing room with the accurate shooting of Culby Hinson and Fielding Combs and held off the Raiders’ late charge for a 42-38 win in the first round of the GISA Class AAA tournament.

“Southland really played how they wanted to at their own pace,” said Hinson, who led the Eagles with 12 points. “We really had to adjust to it and couldn’t play the way we are used to. So, we did what we had to do to win.”

The Eagles will play tournament favorite Mount Vernon Presbyterian at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Middle Georgia College.

Stratford led for most of the first half thanks to three 3-pointers by Hinson and by shooting 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

The Raiders trailed 23-20 at the half and, although they didn’t score many points, they stayed efficient on offense by taking their time on every possession. They moved the ball around for 25 seconds at a time, waiting and looking for the smart shot.

“I just tried to tell the team that just because we are playing slower doesn’t mean we can’t play with intensity,” Stratford head coach John Paul Gaddy said.

Hinson made a 3-pointer, and Combs added two more in the third quarter as the Eagles extended their lead to nine points at the end of the quarter. They held that lead for the first half of the fourth quarter before Southland made a 7-0 run to close within two at 40-38.

The Raiders looked like they would tie the game following a free throw by Marquez Lemon, but a 3-pointer by Rolie Hancock rattled in and out with 50 seconds to play.

Lemon added another free throw later in the quarter to set the final score. Southland couldn’t get any closer, however, missing seven 3-pointers in the final minute.