Down to the final seconds, after Stratford rallied multiple times, the game was up for grabs Tuesday against Northside.
But as James Mitchell’s 3-point shot from the right corner rimmed out at the buzzer, Stratford came out on the losing end of a thrilling contest against Northside, falling 63-60.
Stratford (2-2) trailed by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter before clawing back, going on an 8-0 run to trail 59-57 with 1:29 to play. The spurt was bookended by Quintez Cephus, whose 28 points led all scorers. Even after Cephus’ layup rolled off the side of the rim, Stratford hung close as Northside’s top scorer stepped up.
A pair of free throws by Northside’s Darrin Clark, who had 27 points, made the score to 61-57 with 17 seconds to go before a 3-pointer by Cephus made the Northside lead 61-60. Two more converted shots from the free-throw line by Clark, who was intentionally fouled, gave Northside (1-1) a 63-60 lead, forcing Stratford to need a 3-point shot to send the game to overtime. Stratford set Mitchell, who scored 10, from the corner, and he got an open look as he took the shot.
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“We had a chance to tie and had a great look in the corner; we just needed a few more stops,” Stratford head coach Jamie Dickey said. “We were down eight or nine in the fourth and came back and make it a game, I’m proud of these guys.”
Stratford’s resilience wasn’t limited to the final quarter. Northside led 7-0 in the game’s first 75 seconds before Stratford got its bearing, helped by a pair of 3s by Mitchell to slice the early deficit to 10-6 and keep Stratford close. Stratford stayed within striking distance from there, trailing by no more than six points before a 7-3 run early in the fourth moved Northside ahead 58-49 prior to Stratford’s late-game run.
“The kids really understood that it would take a complete effort to win,” Northside head coach Scott Wynn said. “They understood that they couldn’t just play three quarters and hope for the best.”
In the girls game, Northside (4-4) withstood a late Stratford rally. Trailing by nine points in the final quarter, Stratford to within three points with less than 20 seconds to go before Northside’s Jaliyah Lynch sank a free throw to put the game away in a 45-41 win for Northside. Lynch led Northside with 15 points.
Stratford (3-3), which scored 18 fourth quarter points, was led by Taylor Reese’s 21-point effort.