FPD head coach Michael Walton wanted his team to hit the boards hard against Stratford.
What he didn’t figure, however, was that his team would nearly double up rival Stratford in rebounds in Tuesday’s meeting at Grady Smith Gymnasium.
With Stratford losing the services of big man Nate Brooks for the season for family reasons, Stratford had to go with a much smaller lineup. And that led to a big rebounding edge for FPD, which finished off a season sweep with a 39-34 victory.
FPD outrebounded Stratford 25-13, including a 13-5 edge in the second half. That second-half margin showed up on the scoreboard, with the Vikings outscoring the Eagles 20-10.
The Vikings (11-5 overall) are tied for first place in GHSA Region 7A-1A with Tattnall Square at 6-1.
Three who mattered
Wesley Wilson: FPD’s 6-foot-7, 300-pound center used his size to his advantage, making six of his seven shots en route to a team-high 12 points. Three of his buckets came in the fourth quarter.
Tyler Jordan: The Stratford junior kept things close with some strong shooting from the perimeter. He went 6-for-10 from the field, with all six makes coming from 3-point range, as part of a 20-point night.
C.J. Harris: The FPD junior scored just four points, but his three fourth-quarter rebounds helped put the game away.
Jordan’s 3-pointer with 2:24 to go cut FPD’s lead to 35-32. Stratford, however, was called for offensive fouls on the next two possessions, and the Vikings scored at the other end to extend their lead back to seven.
Brooks’ departure: The 6-7, 243-pound senior was the biggest piece from the Eagles’ state semifinalist team from last year to return. His departure, which Stratford head coach Sean Sweeney said was brought about by a serious illness in Brooks’ family, leaves 6-5 senior Nathan Hunt as the Eagles’ tallest player. The next tallest player is Devin Butts, a 6-3 sophomore guard.
Putting on the brakes: Stratford ran a stall for more than two minutes in the third quarter, with Christian Palmer spending most of that time dribbling near the center circle. Palmer broke the stall by driving the lane. He missed, and FPD worked the ball quickly to the other end for a Maurice Gordon dunk before the buzzer to put the Vikings up 28-24.
Blanked: Stratford failed to score in the third quarter, with FPD going on a 9-0 run to overcome a five-point halftime deficit.
Also Tuesday night
Evans McCook’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds to go in overtime lifted Stratford to a 45-39 victory. Kate Patterson had 22 points for the Vikings, while Nadia Reese scored 18 for the Eagles. Stratford (14-4, 6-1) entered the day in a three-way tie with FPD and Wilkinson County for first place in Region 7A-1A. The Vikings fall to 13-5, 5-2.
They said it
Sweeney on Brooks’ departure: “He will not be with us the rest of the year. His grandmother is sick, unfortunately, and he was living with his grandmother. So he’s going to go back with his mom (who lives out of state), and he won’t be with us the rest of the season. That’s our team, right there. We’ve got to find a way to win.”
Walton on the rebounding edge: “We came in wanting to control the glass, but we didn’t know they would be without Nate. That helped us out on the glass, it was a better matchup for us. We did a good job of keeping Nathan Hunt off the glass, and our guards got down and did a good job of rebounding for us.”
Walton on improving to 4-0 against Bibb County rivals this season: “It was another big win. They’re all big. They’re all so hard to come by. Anytime we can get one, we’ll take it. This Stratford team battles. They’re very well-coached, very well-prepared, they play hard and play well together. We knew it would be a struggle.”
FPD heads to Wilkinson County on Friday for a 7 p.m. doubleheader, while Stratford heads to Tattnall Square for a 6 p.m. doubleheader Friday.