MACON, Ga. — Mike Guthrie smiled and hugged his players in the waning moments of Saturday night’s game.
The Augusta Prep head coach knew his team had played a great season and given it their all.
But it wasn’t enough for the Cavaliers, as they fell to Stratford 61-39 in the GISA Class AAA state title game at Mercer University.
“Coming in second’s OK for us,” Guthrie said. “We came a long way to get to this point. Having Michael (Downing) and the other group of seniors in there was a great accomplishment for them.”
The Cavaliers (20-8) struggled to score early, shooting 8 of 29 in the first half. A jumper by Danny Rosenblum in the last minute of the second quarter cut Stratford’s lead to 35-17.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure for these high school kids playing here in the championship game in a big arena, so our shots were awful in the first half,” Guthrie said. “We talked about that in halftime, to relax it a little bit. Our shots were certainly more pressured than normal.”
Things weren’t much better out of the break, as Augusta Prep shot 6 of 22 to close out the game. The deficit grew as large as 23 as Stratford made 10 of 25 shots in the second half.
“Augusta Prep is such a good team,” Stratford head coach Jamie Dickey said. “They earned the right to be here, and we knew we had a big challenge on our hands. … Our defensive pressure really allowed us to get out in transition. We knew that if they played their style and their game, we were gonna be in for a battle.”
Quintez Cephus finished with 21 points and six rebounds for the Eagles, while Jonathan Hefner added 10.
Senior Rafay Chaudhary scored 12 points to lead the Cavaliers.
“Rafay’s played excellent in the playoffs,” Gutherie said. “He got us to this point of where we are, no question about that.”