STRATFORD—Mike August isn’t a big fan of cake.
The celebratory frosted desert, that is, not the 1990s alternative rock band by the same name.
So, August opted instead to celebrate his birthday on Thursday with a 60-48 SWC basketball win over New Fairfield at the Needham Gymnasium.
“It’s great. I think we’re really starting to close games better,” August said. “We still have to fix a few things, tweak a few things, but we’re coming together as team and we’re trusting each other more and more.”
Jack Ryan—who had a hand in all 12 of his team’s points in the opening quarter—scored a game-high 19 points to lead the Red Devils effort while August added 16. Preston Williams chipped in with 10 more.
The Red Devils improved to 6-4 as they reached the midway mark of the season. It was Stratford’s third straight win.
“We’re pleased where we are, but 7-3 is always better than 6-4,” Stratford coach Tim Swaller said. “We’re halfway through, but there are still things we need to work on and do better. But I like where we are now and where we’re going.”
Stratford started fast, racing out to a 10-2 lead on New Fairfield but could never full but the last dagger into Rebels.
The Red Devils had built a 29-18 lead late in the first half, but New Fairfield put together six points to end the second quarter and opened the second half on a 6-2 spurt to cut the lead to 31-30.
Time and time again, though, Stratford was able to answer keep a cushion.
An August bucket, two Ryan foul shots and a Joe August scored pushed to seven and Stratford took a 9-point advantage (42-33) into the final eight minutes.
“I thought we dropped our guard a little bit,” Swaller said. “But we were able to respond and make enough plays down the stretch on offense and on defense to stretch things out at the end.”
It was big 3-point shot by Williams that got the lead back into double-digits at 46-36 for Stratford early in the fourth quarter.
Down the stretch, Stratford went 12-for-14 from the foul line to ice the game.
“It was just a matter of us coming down to the end of the game,” Swaller said. “We just had to secure it with good basketball decisions and, for the most part, we were able to do that.”
Ryan helped set the stage for the night, having a hand in all 12 of Stratford’s first quarter points and 14 of their first 16, too.
The senior guard set up Joe August and Williams with Stratford’s first two buckets of the game before hitting back-to-back 3-pointers to make it 10-2.
Another bucket by Ryan helped Stratford take a 12-8 lead after one quarter.
Another bucket by Ryan early in the second quarter increased the Stratford advantage to 16-8—a lead that would grow to 11—but the Rebels weren’t about to go away.
In the end, though, Mike August got the celebration he wanted as Stratford was able to pull out the win.
The Red Devils return to action on Saturday at noon with a non-conference road trip to Brien McMahon in Norwalk.