Sherwood senior Patrick Stanford is licking his chops over a final shot at city rival Deerfield tonight after Stanford — who leads the Eagles in scoring with 23 points a game and broke the school single-game record with 43 in a game last week — was sick in the first meeting and scored just four points.
Want To Go?
WHO: Deerfield at Sherwood.
WHAT: Second meeting of season between Albany’s two private schools.
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. girls game, followed by the boys.
ALBANY — Patrick Stanford, in his last shot at in-town archnemesis Deerfield-Windsor, wants to turn the series between Sherwood Christian and the Knights back into a rivalry.
And the Eagles senior knows what they need to do to make that happen in tonight’s rematch: win.
“I think coach said it best earlier this season,” Stanford said, referring to head coach Karmarlos Jackson’s comment after Sherwood fell to Deerfield, 78-47, in early December.
“It’s not a rivalry until we win,” Jackson told The Herald after his first meeting with the Knights and head coach Gordy Gruhl.
It was early for both teams. Sherwood was still learning from its first-year head coach, and most of Deerfield’s team had just come off the football field from a state championship season. But it was still clear the Knights were the dominant team.
“We got our butts handed to us,” said Stanford, who broke the school-record for points in a game with 43 a week ago in a win against Westwood. That output was a far cry from the performance he had in the first meeting against Deerfield when he came into the game under the weather and scored just four points.
The Eagles feel they are more prepared now, winning five of their last six games to improve to 10-5 on the season. Of course, so are the Knights (10-3), who have won five straight, thanks to Herald Super 6er Ramello Carter, who is averaging a team-high 17 points a game.
“Since Christmas, we’ve shot the ball better,” Gruhl said Thursday. “Things are starting to look smoother, and we’re starting to look more like a basketball team than a football team.”
Sherwood has yet to lose at home this season and will fare better in its friendly confines tonight even if the Knights hold a psychological edge. That edge is winning the last 17 meetings dating back to the Eagles’ last victory in 2004.
“It would be a big win, but we play it just like any other game,” Sherwood senior T.J. Clay said. “Usually we get psyched out when we play them.”
After the first non-region matchup, Jackson, Sherwood’s first-year coach, said: “We were like a deer in headlights. It’s the whole mystique of playing Deerfield. It got to us. We weren‘t ready for that kind of pressure.”
Sherwood is more confident now after that loss and a two-point defeat against Southwest Georgia Academy to open Region 3-AA play. Since then, the Eagles have knocked off Valwood and Westwood — and Stanford has found his stroke. He hit 7 of 13 3-point attempts in an 83-69 win against Westwood on Jan. 11 and made 10 of 14 free throws en route to a school record 43 points. The record was previously held by Cameron Williams in 2009.
“I was really disappointed with how I played against SGA (in a two-point loss),” said Stanford, who was held to eight points in that Jan. 8 defeat, despite averaging 23 points a game this season. “I felt like there was a lot more that I left out there.”
Whatever he left, he found it three nights later against Westwood in a record-breaking night.
“I wasn’t going to let that happen two games in a row,” Stanford said. “I was just feeling it.”
Clay, who scored 17 that night, didn’t know his teammate was close to 40 or the school record, for that matter. But he did sense Stanford was dialed in.
“He was focused,” Clay said. “You could see it in his eyes.”
Stanford followed his record night with 31 points in a region win against Valwood.
Fully healthy this time around, Gruhl said it will be interesting to see how Sherwood’s star player comes out against his team.
“You could tell he was a good bit sick (the first time we played),” Gruhl said of Stanford. “He wasn’t himself. He’s a good player and really shoots the ball well.”
Knocking off GISA Class AAA power Deerfield for the first time in nine season would be icing on the cake for Stanford and the Eagles, but what he really wants will be determined over the next month and a half.
“It’s time to get this region championship, hang the banner and get to the Final Four,” Stanford said.