IRWINTON -- Stratford boys basketball head coach Jamie Dickey said he expected his team to play well in its GHSA Region 7A-A opener at Class A public school powerhouse Wilkinson County.
But even he seemed a little surprised at what happened on the Warriors’ home court Friday night.
The Eagles defeated Wilkinson County 73-66 behind 36 points from Quintez Cephus and 18 from O’Showen Williams to win their first region game since moving over from the GISA.
“We were a confident basketball team coming into this game, but we also know that Wilkinson County is one of the best teams in this area and has been for many years,” said Dickey, whose team improved to 9-3. “I think once we got to halftime and still in the game that our confidence grew, and we knew that we could play with them. I think that we can play with anyone, but getting a win at Wilkinson County is definitely a confidence builder.”
Wilkinson County jumped out to a 22-16 first-quarter lead behind the shooting of Torrico Simmons, who scored 12 points during that stretch and pushed the Warriors’ lead to seven at 25-18 on 3-pointer early in the second quarter. But Williams and Cephus took over at that point, scoring 15 points between them in the next six minutes to take a 37-34 lead into the half.
A key turning point in the game happened with a little more than three minutes left in the quarter when Simmons was whistled for a foul and then hit with a technical, which was his third foul of the half, forcing him to the bench.
Stratford pushed its lead to 43-37 early in the third on a Chandler Banks basket, but Keldrick Anderson scored eight points in the quarter to help rally Wilkinson County, which took a 53-51 lead heading into the final quarter.
Cephus, who had only four points in the third quarter, got hot again, scoring five points in a 9-4 Eagles run to give them a 60-57 lead. He then scored two more baskets to stretch Stratford’s lead to six, 67-61.
Wilkinson County scored the next five points to trim Stratford’s lead to a point with 40 seconds left, but Stratford pulled away with free throws.
“Obviously Quintez is a very special player, and we need him to do more in big games like this,” Dickey said. “But really, it’s something he does night in and night out for us. That’s why he is being recruited by all the D-I schools. But I can’t say enough about the way the entire team played against a very good basketball team.”
Simmons led Wilkinson County with 29 points. The Warriors hit just 11-of-41 3-point attempts.