In head coach Ed Smith’s judgement, Stratford’s girls hadn’t played a full game of basketball in the team’s first three meetings with Tattnall Square.
The Eagles, Smith figured, didn’t do that in their first two regular-season meetings in January. Nor did they do it in the championship game of the GHSA Region 7-A tournament played Feb. 14.
Tuesday’s GHSA Class A private school quarterfinal was quite different. Stratford brought some defensive pressure, pressure that became relentless in the second quarter and continued the rest of the way. The Eagles wound up turning the tables on Tattnall, scoring a 45-31 victory and earning a spot in Saturday’s semifinals at Kennesaw State.
“We played 32 minutes,” Smith said. “We were intense. We carried out the game plan, and we made some shots. We just played for the whole game, finally.”
Stratford, which played in the 1970 Class C championship at the Macon Coliseum before leaving the GHSA to play in a forerunner of the GISA, is now one win way from a return trip to the Coliseum in its first season back in the GHSA.
The Eagles (21-6) turned up the pressure the most in the second quarter. Stratford went on an 11-0 run, with Tattnall not scoring until the 1:47 mark, to flip what was a five-point Tattnall lead into a six-point Stratford edge.
“Our intensity was definitely a hundred percent higher,” said Stratford’s Taylor Reese, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “We just all wanted it more than we ever wanted. We just got it done.”
While Tattnall (27-3) led early, Stratford began to establish the type of game it wanted to play in the first quarter with Reese coming down with seven rebounds. Despite recording only four points in the opening eight minutes, she was doing enough to where Tattnall had to keep someone on her.
The attention to Reese inside opened up Stratford’s perimeter game. Lucy Bobbitt hit three of the four 3-point attempts she took in the second quarter, with two of them coming during the Eagles’ game-changing run. She also hit a 3-pointer just before the halftime horn, a shot that gave Stratford a 23-16 lead at the break.
“That’s the good thing about me and (Reese) working together, she’s so tall when she gets inside that they collapse on her and it opens up shots for me,” Bobbitt said. “It’s just a really big advantage when they go inside on her and I can shoot.”
Stratford put the game out of reach in the third quarter, going 6-of-8 from the field and hitting a pair of free-throw attempts to open up its lead to 39-24.
“We understand what it takes,” Smith said. “We didn’t do that the first three times we played them. They’re a talented team, and they have a lot to do with how you play. But (Tuesday) things just came together, and it was our night.”
Bobbitt hit a 3-pointer in the third quarter to finish with 12 points, while Reese finished with 12 rebounds. Kendra Green and Haley Gordon each had 10 points for Tattnall.
STRATFORD BOYS POSTPONED
The Stratford boys basketball quarterfinal scheduled for Wednesday against Greenforest Christian has been postponed a day.
Several games scheduled for Atlanta and points north were rescheduled as a winter storm is expected to affect that part of the state.
Stratford and Greenforest Christian are now scheduled to play at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Cedar Grove Middle School in Decatur.
Also postponed was the girls quarterfinal between St. Francis and Mount Paran. That game will now take place at 6 p.m. on Thursday at St. Francis, with the winner to face Stratford on Saturday.