Stratford girls riding 23-game winning streak into Elite Eight: ‘we can play with anybody’
Stratford girls basketball hasn’t lost in 2019. They only lost twice in the calendar year 2018.
The Eagles (27-1, 10-0) are riding a 23-game winning streak, their last and only loss of the season coming Dec. 4 against Elite Scholars Academy. A streak like this is just normal to the team, said junior guard Nadia Reese.
“It’s an expectation that we have this year,” Reese said. “We don’t really worry about winning. We just hate losing more than we love winning.”
This year’s win streak is nothing out of the ordinary to Reese because the Eagles did nearly the exact same thing last season. After losing twice early in the season, Stratford won 22 straight games before losing to Holy Innocents’ in the Final Four.
“Losing just makes you want to come back and do it harder next year,” Reese said. “It makes you want it more.”
The Eagles are in prime position to avenge last season’s loss. With a win Tuesday against Calvary Day and a Holy Innocents’ win in its Elite Eight game, the two teams would once again face each other in the Final Four.
But head coach Ed Smith said looking past Calvary Day would be a mistake.
“We’re not playing (Holy Innocents’). We’re all trying to get a spot in the Final Four, and that has to be our focus right now,” Smith said. “There’s no way anyone right now can be thinking about a state championship with as many good teams that are left. We’re just hoping to win one more and punch our ticket to the Final Four, which is our goal every year.”
Calvary Day is no slouch, boasting a 26-3 record on the season and a current 17-game win streak.
Smith said Stratford will need to play good transition defense and rebound the ball effectively in order to beat the Cavaliers. Reese echoed Smith, saying her focus will be boxing out defensively.
“They’re pretty long and athletic,” Reese said. “We’re pretty small, so that’s a big factor in the game.”
Stratford may be small, but it brings a lethal pair of scorers to the contest in Reese and junior Mary Elaine Mitchell. Reese averages more than 16 points a game and reached 1,000 career points this season; Mitchell averages more than 14 points.
Smith said their experience and offensive leadership has been key to Stratford’s success this season. He said the team possesses the ability to play well together, move the ball and play fundamental basketball.
Losing to Holy Innocents’ in the Final Four last year motivated Reese, but Smith said it also taught the team valuable experience for this season.
“Holy Innocents’ is probably top five in all classifications in the state,” Smith said. “It showed (us), on any given night, if we give our best effort and stay focused and execute, then we can play with anybody.”
Stratford will get another chance to prove that Tuesday when it hosts Calvary Day at 6 p.m.
“I would say (GHSA) A-private girls basketball is one of the toughest leagues in the state … There’s not a lot of latitude for mistakes,” Smith said. “We want the opportunity to go stand with the best.”